Climbing Hydrangea: Characteristics, Cultivars And More

Hydrangea petiolaris, a climbing hydrangea, is a species of flowering plant in the family Hydrangeaceae native to the woodlands of Japan, the Korean peninsula, and on Sakhalin island of easternmost Siberia in the Russian Far East. 

This woody vine, known scientifically as Hydrangea anomala, climbing hydrangea is not a twining vine that wraps around supports, or a tendril-clasping vine, but a true clinging vine that can reach unpruned heights exceeding 60 feet. It has aerial roots that grab hold of rough surfaces, such as brick, wood and other plants, and fastens securely. This is not a vine that damages or pulls down structures

The climbing hydrangea is no mere wallflower; it’s a hardy plant that thrives in USDA plant hardiness zones 5 through 7. This perennial is quite the performer, blooming in late spring and summer, with the flowers standing out against a backdrop of deep green leaves like a chorus of white petals on a verdant stage.

Climbing hydrangea is cultivated as an ornamental plant in Europe and North America. Climbing hydrangea is grown either on masonry walls or on sturdy trellises or fences. It is at its best where it gets morning sun and afternoon shade, however it can tolerate dense shade, and is therefore often selected for shady, north-facing areas with little or no sun. Its clinging rootlets are not as strong as some other wall-climbing vines, and so is often anchored with supplemental gardening ties.

Characteristics of Climbing Hydrangea (Hydrangea petiolaris)

  • Size: They can grow up to 50 feet tall and 6 to 15 feet wide, depending on the support structure and pruning.
  • Growth Rate: These plants are slow to start growing but can put on significant growth once established. They are known to grow up to 1 meter per year.
  • Leaves: The leaves of are ovate, dark green, and can turn shades of yellow in the fall. They are large, often measuring up to 4 inches long.
  • Flowers: They produce large, showy, fragrant white flowers in clusters. These flowers are usually 6 to 8 inches in diameter and bloom in late spring to early summer (June to July).
  • Root System: They have aerial rootlets that allow them to cling and climb. These rootlets can cause damage to structures if not properly managed.
  • Lifespan: With proper care, can live for up to 50 years.
  • USDA Zones: They are hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 8.
  • Soil: These plants prefer moist, well-drained soil. They are tolerant of a variety of soil types, including alkaline and acidic.
  • Sunlight: They grow in full sun, part sun, or even in shade, though they may bloom more profusely in sunnier locations.
  • Pruning: Pruning should be done to control the size and shape of the plant and to remove dead or damaged wood. It’s best to prune right after flowering since the plant blooms on old wood.
  • Propagation: Climbing hydrangeas can be propagated by stem cuttings taken in the summer.
  • Hardiness: They are generally hardy and resistant to pests and diseases.

Cultivars of Climbing Hydrangea (Hydrangea petiolaris)


Cultivar NameFlower ColorSize
Hydrangea petiolaris (species)White30-50 ft. tall
‘Sutert’ (Skylands Giant)White30-50 ft. tall
‘Aurea’White30-50 ft. tall
‘Miranda’White30-50 ft. tall
‘Silver Lining’White30-50 ft. tall
‘Flying Saucer’White30-50 ft. tall
‘Kuga Variegated’White30-50 ft. tall
‘Furuaziai’White30-50 ft. tall
‘Kasai’White30-50 ft. tall

Prune a Climbing Hydrangea

For minor pruning to help shape your climbing hydrangea, wait until late summer when the vine has finished flowering to prune it. During this time, you can trim the vine to control its height or width, remove dead branches or make cuts at leaf nodes to encourage the plant to fill out. Leaf nodes are the points on the branches from where leaves grow. Trimming just above the leaf node sends signals to the plant to branch out at that point, creating a fuller appearance to the vine.

Occasionally you may need to prune your climbing hydrangea back heavily. This heavy pruning might be necessary if the upper portion of the vine has been damaged, for example. If the vine has become spindly, heavy pruning will rejuvenate the plant. The best time to perform a major pruning is when the plant is close to coming out of dormancy in late winter or early spring. Prune back the majority of the plant, leaving three to five 3-foot-tall stalks. After a heavy pruning, avoid pruning your climbing hydrangea over the next year. Note that this kind of heavy pruning will result in a year or two of growth but no flowers.