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Climbing hydrangea

Climbing hydrangea on a stone wall.

Climbing hydrangea is a handsome woody vine that clings and climbs by attaching itself with tiny rootlets to a wall, trellis, or other support.  In early July, it has flat, lacy clusters of fragrant small white flowers that show up well against the glossy green leaves. The horizontal branching pattern can create interesting, sculptural effects against a wall, and the cinnamon-brown bark on older stems peels to create an interesting texture that is attractive in winter. Over the course of years, it may reach 30 to 80 feet in length. This vine can also be used as a ground cover in shady areas. Also known as Hydrangea anomala ssp. petiolaris.

This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.

Botanical name:

Hydrangea petiolaris

All common names:

Climbing hydrangea

Family (English):


Family (Botanic):


Tree or Plant Type:

  • Ground cover,
  • Vine


  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)

Native Locale:

  • Non-native

Landscape Uses:

  • Screen,
  • Specimen

Size Range:

  • Large plant (more than 24 inches)

Light Exposure:

  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily),
  • Full shade (4 hrs or less of light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 4,
  • Zone 5 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7

Soil Preference:

  • Moist, well-drained soil


  • Alkaline soil

Seasons of Interest:

  • early winter,
  • midsummer,
  • late summer,
  • early fall,
  • mid fall,
  • late fall

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • Fragrant,
  • White

Shape or Form:

  • Vining

Growth Rate:

  • Slow

More Information:

Size and Method of Climbing

A true clinging vine that can grow 30 to 80 feet long.  Clinging vines attach themselves directly to a surface by means of holdfasts (adhesive discs) or by small aerial roots.  This type of vine grows best on a flat surface, such as stone, masonry walls and wood.

Plant Care

Needs moist, well-drained soil. Water in dry periods.
Best flowering occurs in full sun but will grow in full shade. 
Blooms on old wood. Buds can be damaged by late frosts.
Little pruning required, but prune in late winter to control size. 
A true vine, clinging to rough surfaces by root-like fast holds. Can attach to buildings, fences and arbors or spread as a ground cover.
Growth is slow in the first 3 to 5 years, but picks up speed once roots are established.

Disease, pests and problems

No serious problems.

Native geographic location and habitat

Native to Japan, Korea and Siberia.

Bark color and texture 

Stems are dark cinnamon brown with exfoliating bark that splits and peels.
Instead of lying flat, the stems develops  3-dimensional branchlets that stick out from the structure it is growing on.

Leaf description

Simple, opposite, broadly oval leaves; 2 to 4 inches long with toothed margins.
Leaves are glossy, dark green in summer, hang on well into fall before changing to a clear yellow.

Flower description

Large, 6 to 8 inch fragrant, lacecap-type clusters of white flowers in late June to early July.
New plants may take several years to produce flowers.

Fruit description

The actual fruit (a dry capsule) is not ornamentally important, but the remains of the dry flower heads that surround them do provide winter interest.

Cultivars and their differences 

Firefly climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea petiolaris 'Firefly'): Cultivar with variegated leaves.

Miranda climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea petiolaris 'Miranda'):  Variegated form that features serrate, heart-shaped, dark green leaves with yellow margins (can revert to green in summer heat); very little fall color.

Location of Hydrangea petiolaris (Climbing hydrangea) at the Arboretum