The original and still one of the best! Tuff Stuff mountain hydrangea from Proven Winners changed the hydrangea world forever, thanks to its superior bud hardiness. Developed from seed collected on the chilly mountaintops of Japan, this strain naturally acquired outstanding cold tolerance in its flower buds, reducing and even eliminating the cold weather damage so has disappointed so many would-be hydrangea growers here in North America.
It's almost a shame to call Tuff Stuff hydrangea "tough" because its blooms are just so darn pretty, but as we have learned, it can definitely be both. In early summer, semi-double flowers cover this neat, mounded plant. Each one is graced with a fun green eye for contrast, and the surrounding sepals will be bright pink or purple, depending on the soil. This rebloomer keeps fresh flowers coming all summer and into fall. It truly is one of the best choices for USDA zone 5 gardeners who crave the color and appeal of bigleaf hydrangeas.
Tuff Stuff hydrangea is the same plant that is sold as Flair & Flavours Cotton Candy or Flair & Flavours Blueberry Cheesecake in Europe.
What makes Tuff Stuff mountain hydrangea different from other mountain hydrangeas?
- Exceptional bud hardiness preserves flowers, even in cold weather and frosts
- Very neat and tidy habit looks great in the landscape or garden
Name: Hydrangea serrata 'MAK20' pp#24,820, cbr#4527
Hardiness: USDA zones 5-9
Height x width: 2-3'
Light: Full to part sun
Soil: Evenly moist but well-drained soils are best. A 2-3" layer of shredded bark mulch is recommended in all areas, all year round.
Pruning: Blooms on old and new wood; do not trim or cut back, but dead wood may be removed in early spring
Water: Average to high water needs. Though mountain hydrangeas suffer if grown in wet soils, they can also become drought stressed readily and should be watered regularly. Plants in full sun and/or warmer climates will need more water than those in less sun and/or cooler areas.
Fertilizer: Fertilize once in early spring with a rose fertilizer if desired.
Bloom time: Midsummer through fall.
Bloom color: Flower color depends on soil pH; Tuff Stuff is a strong pink color but will turn purple in acidic soils that contain aluminum.
Uses: A classic choice for including in gardens and landscaping, it also makes a nice choice for low hedges and containers.
Maybe you've never heard of a mountain hydrangea (H. serrata), but you've almost certainly seen one - they are close cousins of the better-known bigleaf hydrangeas and have the same colorful flowers and similar-looking foliage. Mountain hydrangeas grow in the same areas of Japan as bigleaf hydrangeas, but instead of growing along they mild coast, they grow high in the chilly mountaintops. As a result, they have naturally developed better cold tolerance, particularly in their flower buds. This means that if bigleaf hydrangeas don't always bloom reliably for you, a mountain hydrangea might make a much better choice. Though most mountain hydrangeas have lacecap flowers, you'll still enjoy the fantastic blue, purple, or pink color and handsome glossy foliage you seek in bigleaf types.
In terms of USDA hardiness zones, the cold and heat tolerance of mountain hydrangeas is similar to that of bigleaf hydrangeas, zones 5-9. However, cold climate gardeners will likely find that they have much better success getting flowers every year on mountain hydrangeas than they do on bigleaf hydrangeas.
For the very best results, follow similar siting advice for mountain hydrangeas as for bigleaf types: look for sites protected from prevailing cold winds and weather in cold climates, and in hot climates, provide shade during the hottest part of the day.
Because most mountain hydrangeas on the market are relatively recent introductions, you'll tend to see smaller sizes - all of the ones that we offer are under 3' tall. This makes them very easy to use in the garden and should eliminate the need and desire to prune to manage size.
Mountain hydrangeas have slightly narrower foliage than their bigleaf cousins, and that reduction in surface area can make them a bit more resistant to wilting. However, we still recommend shade during the hottest part of the day, particularly in USDA zones 7-9. Sun in the morning, or filtered light all day, is ideal.
We recommend moist, well-drained soil for mountain hydrangeas for best looks and performance. A 2-3" layer of shredded bark mulch over the roots is recommended to conserve moisture levels in the soil and keep the roots insulated against both hot and cold.
Mountain hydrangeas tolerate acidic to slightly alkaline soils, and their flower color is impacted by soil chemistry as well. Blue to purple/lavender colors develop in acidic soils that contain aluminum, and pink/red colors in other conditions.
Apply a granular rose fertilizer in early spring, just as the soil begins to thaw in cold climates and any time in early spring in warm areas. Because all of the mountain hydrangeas we offer are rebloomers, you may wish to make additional applications monthly through late July to encourage the vigorous growth that results in the rapid development of abundant new wood flower buds.
Mountain hydrangeas share the color change abilities of bigleaf hydrangeas, and will be pink/red in neutral to alkaline soils, as well as in acidic soils with little to no aluminum. They will be blue/purple in acidic soils that contain aluminum unless otherwise indicated in the description.
As with bigleaf hydrangeas, if you buy a mountain hydrangea online or in a garden center, it will most likely bloom pink unless it was specifically treated to bloom blue. This is because commercial growing media does not contain aluminum. However, a year or so after planting, the flower color will reflect the conditions of the soil you planted it in.
Mountain hydrangeas bloom on old and new wood, and as such, pruning should be avoided. They should never be cut or trimmed back, except to remove any dead wood (especially in spring in cold climates). You may safely remove any dead or very old/non-productive stems at the base to increase air flow and enhance the plant's habit.
Mountain hydrangea problems
Mountain hydrangeas are similarly trouble-free as bigleaf types, but as a close relative, may be susceptible to the same problems:
Powdery mildew can be managed by providing good air circulation (move any plants that are crowding it), avoiding pelting the leaves with water when you irrigate, and cleaning up any fallen foliage in autumn, as the mildew spores will overwinter on it and re-infect the plant the following spring if conditions are right. If your plant consistently gets powdery mildew in its spot, consider moving it.
Leaf spots like alternaria and cercospora can develop on mountain hydrangeas, though this is generally less likely than on bigleaf types due to the reduced leaf surface. These fungal leaf spots manifest as brownish-purple dots on the leaves, ranging from tiny to quite large. They usually become more apparent later in summer, and particularly if a plant becomes stressed. These diseases can be managed in the same manner as for powdery mildew above.
Mountain hydrangeas are generally unbothered by insects. Any chewing that is seen typically does not require management of any kind.
Slug damage may occur, but tends to be less of an issue on mountain hydrangeas due to their thicker, more leathery foliage and smaller leaf surface. Deer, however, may be an issue, and they are particularly fond of developing flower buds. If deer are an issue in your area, protect plants with a repellent or netting to ensure you get a good bloom.
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.
After 60 days, we cannot be responsible for the plants in your care and will not cover problems with overwintering, animals, insects, diseases, improper planting, drought, flooding, poor drainage, etc. Our goal is that you are successful with our plants (and gardening in general), so our expert staff is here to assist you with any problem you may experience.
Any plant shipped dormant in spring is guaranteed to break dormancy, even if it takes longer than 60 days.
Please note: our guarantee does not cover plants grown outside of their recommended growing zones. Verify your USDA zone by clicking 'Growing Zone' in the site navigation and entering your zip code before purchasing.
FALL GUARANTEE – SHIPPING FROM SEPTEMBER 1 – END OF FALL SEASON
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.
OUR ROBUST PLANTS
We ship plants with hefty root systems that outperform smaller plants obtained from other mail-order nurseries.
We take great pride in our packaging. Please contact us immediately for any damaged boxes or shortages. (Please note: multiple boxes shipped by Fed Ex might not always arrive the same day)
Any plant shipped dormant in the spring is guaranteed to break dormancy even if it takes more than one month. Call us directly if you have any concerns.
Photos of the plant(s) will be required so that we may provide the best assistance possible
A plant refund is based on the plant cost less discounts and shipping charges. Allow up to 2 weeks for processing. We reserve the right to request a return of an item.
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.
The two plants I ordered arrived in very good condition and are lush and thriving despite a brutal dry spell of triple digit days (About 40 thus far in 2022). I will happily add more once our scorching summer is over.
Came healthy and has doubled in size! Leaves are big and hearty! Can't wait until my fragrant front yard privacy hedge fully develops of many different shrubs from GGP! Thanks
I ordered 2 of these that I have in side by side containers. One is doing beautifully. The other, not so good. I can’t wait to see them in bloom.
The Tuff Stuff mountain hydrangeas have been in the ground for several weeks and are doing great. This is the second season I've ordered a variety of plants from this company and I've had really good luck with the shipments. They do a very good job packaging. Two of the hydrangeas came looking a little sad but they perked right up after I watered them.