What makes Invincibelle Lace different from other smooth hydrangeas?
- Colorful lacecap flowers are a lovely mauve-pink
- Lacecap blooms attract pollinators
- Very strong stems ensure no flopping or bending of the stems
Name: Hydrangea arborescens 'SMNHRLL' pp33,290, cbraf
Hardiness: USDA zones 3-8
Height + width: 4-5'
Light: Full to part sun
Soil: Any well-drained soil will do. Though dry conditions are unlikely to harm an established plant, prolonged drought will severely limit floral life.
Pruning: Blooms on new wood; prune back by one-third in late winter/early spring for better habit and a slight improvement in stem strength.
Water: Average water needs. Does not tolerate wet conditions.
Fertilizer: Fertilize once in early spring with a rose fertilizer if desired.
Bloom time: Summer
Bloom color: Star-like fertile florets are a bright to dusty pink, depending on phase; sterile florets are white with a pink center.
Uses: Perfect for hedging or specimen planting, and very nice in flower gardens. If you have a garden for pollinators or wildlife, or a native plant garden, it's a must-plant!
This super-hardy, super easy-to-grow hydrangea goes by lots of different names: smooth hydrangea, Annabelle hydrangea, wild seven bark, hills-of-snow hydrangea, wild hydrangea, native hydrangea, and probably a few more. Botanically, it is known as Hydrangea arborescens and it is native to much of the southeastern United States, from the south of Illinois to northern Florida and from New York state to Oklahoma. If you were to see a smooth hydrangea in the wild, though, you'd barely recognize it: naturally, its flowers are small and not very showy. It is thanks to avid gardeners and talented plant breeders that we have the big, colorful flowers that now characterize this practically fool-proof hydrangea.
Along with panicle hydrangeas, smooth hydrangeas are some of the most cold tolerant on the market, easily thriving and blooming even in chilly USDA zone 3. They are heat tolerant through about USDA zone 8, though can be grown in cool parts of zone 9, such as the Pacific Northwest.
With the recent work on the Invincibelle series done by Dr. Tom Ranney and his team at NCSU, the size range of smooth hydrangeas has gone from pretty much strictly 5'+ to a huge selection in the 2-3' range, and some as small as just 1-1.5' tall and wide. With a little research, you'll find the perfect variety for any space!
We recommend at least four hours of sun each day, or filtered light throughout the day. This makes a huge difference in the stem strength, as plants that are in too much shade will stretch toward the light, leading to thin, spindly growth that can't support the flower heads. For the pink varieties, sun also helps to bring out the purest, truest colors. Finally, in too much shade, you may find that mophead varieties don't fully develop and take on some characteristics of lacecap flowers. In hot climates, sun should only be in the morning, and during the hottest part of the day, they should be in shade.
Easy-going smooth hydrangeas aren't fussy about soil, but they do require it to be well-drained. They won't do well in soils that are too wet nor soils that are too dry. Soil pH is not an issue, as they can grow well in acidic to slightly alkaline conditions, and the color of the pink varieties will not change based on soil chemistry as they can for bigleaf and mountain types.
Smooth hydrangeas are naturally fast-growing, and need little to no supplemental fertilizer to do their best. One application of a granular (not liquid) rose fertilizer in early spring should be sufficient in most areas.
For many years, white was the only option for smooth hydrangeas, but that changed dramatically in 2010 when Proven Winners introduced Invincibelle Spirit hydrangea. It was the first-ever pink flowering smooth hydrangea. Since then, new and improved color options have been hitting the market, and now pure pinks, ruby reds, mauvey purples, and even greens are available. The color on these varieties is not impacted by the soil chemistry.
Smooth hydrangeas are one of the few types that bloom on new wood. This is one of the reasons why they are such a reliable performer even in cold climates! It's also what makes pruning them each spring the ideal way to maintain the plants, as it removes any thin buds at the tips of the stems and ensures the growth for the year comes from thicker buds that were created earlier the previous season.
Some people cut smooth hydrangeas like 'Annabelle' all the way to the ground. However, we recommend cutting the entire plant back by about one-third its total height in early spring. You can also remove any thin side branches at this time, as well as any wood that's not showing signs of life. If you prefer, you can do this in late autumn/early winter, you'll just want to wait until the plant is completely dormant before pruning. Our preference is generally to prune in spring, because this leaves the dried flower heads in place all winter, which are much nicer to look at than a bunch of cut-off branches. The plant will not be harmed with late autumn pruning if that's what you prefer.
Smooth hydrangea problems
Largely problem-free, any issues you do see on your smooth hydrangeas are most likely cultural - due to some conditions the plant is experiencing that aren't ideal for growth. That said, there are a couple of issues that may arise that you should know about.
The leaf spots that impact other hydrangeas are usually fungal in nature. However, the most common leaf spot for smooth hydrangeas is actually bacterial. It can be avoided in the same way as fungal leaf spots: avoid overhead watering, provide good air circulation, keep the plant free of stress, and remove any affected foliage when it falls in autumn.
There's only one insect that you are likely to find causing damage on a smooth hydrangea, and that's the hydrangea leaf tier. That's "tie-r," as in, "one who ties," because this little caterpillar makes itself a snug little home in the leaf shoots so that it can feed safely on the developing foliage. These native insects rarely cause any issues for the plant, but once the caterpillar develops into a moth, you may see the foliage is slightly disfigured. If you see the leaves clasped tightly together at the ends of the branches, you can peel them open and smash the green larvae.
Deer cause major issues for smooth hydrangeas: they especially love to eat the flower buds and may eat them before they are even noticeable to the human eye. They also eat the foliage, and smooth hydrangeas tend to be the type that are most severely damaged by deer. If you have deer in your yard, plants should be protected with netting or a spray, and this protection will need to be repeated - maturity does not seem to deter them.
NO RISK 60 DAY GUARANTEE
We've got you covered with our 60-day guarantee. We guarantee that you will be satisfied with your purchase and that your plants will arrive healthy, free of pests and diseases, and true to name.
Have a problem with your plant? We make it easy to place a claim via email or use the chat bubble. Simply send us a photo of your plant, your order number, and a brief description of the problem within 60 days of receipt of your order. Orders from US are eligible for refund or replacement; Canadian orders are eligible only for refunds. All refunds are based on the plant cost and do not include shipping charges. Allow up to 2 weeks for processing refunds.
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Any plant shipped dormant in spring is guaranteed to break dormancy, even if it takes longer than 60 days.
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Did you receive an order after September 1? If so, it falls under our fall guarantee. We want to ensure your plants establish in your garden and return the following spring. Therefore, the warranty on your plants is extended to May 31 the next year. Ensure you contact us with images, your order number, and a description of the problem before May 31.
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After 60 days, we cannot be responsible for product that is in your care. This includes overwintering, animals, insects, diseases, poor planting, plants beyond their hardiness zone, drought, flooding, etc. Our expert staff is here to assist you with any problem you may be experiencing. Our goal is that you are successful with our product.
I wanted a pollinator friendly native hydrangea, but something a little different from Annabelle. Invincibelle Lace was just perfect! It poured for a few days after being planted near a thirsty maple, but it’s settled in and I can’t wait to see it next spring! Thanks for sending such healthy plants!
The plant is in a bigger pot since I came in and doubled. I am switching over my garden to hydrangas. Love them. Not so gdfor flowering this though, great growth, good leaf color, but flowers are rare. My lime light and strawberry cream tonscof flowers. Hmmmm.
So sad! It didn’t make it.
Hello! We're sorry that you had trouble with your new plant. Please email pictures of the plant to email@example.com, making sure to put your order number and name in the subject line so that we may provide the best assistance possible. Rest assured, we do have a 60-day guarantee on all of our plants. If you received your plants within that timeframe, we will be happy to apply your warranty once we receive the pictures. Happy Gardening!
Both of these two plants are doing great. Can't wait till spring.
Still has not kicked in after two weeks. It has been very hot here in the Northeast. Western exposure. I have given it a little shade, some constant moisture and a good helping of compost and leaf mulch. My gut feeling is that this will be a beauty. It’s a tough time of year to transplant.
The packing was excellent and the soil was still moist. Well pruned.
Wish me luck.