En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
1 rating

Sunday - April 10, 2011

From: Wilmette, IL
Region: Midwest
Topic: Shade Tolerant, Shrubs
Title: Annabelle hydrangeas blossoms drooping to ground in Wilmette, IL
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I have a row of Annabelle Hydrangeas that become very heavy and droop over the entire width of the bed. I would like to know what I can use for support so that they will stand up and allow me to plant some annuals in front of them.


According to our website on Hydrangea arborescens (Wild hydrangea), of which 'Annabelle" is probably a selection given a trade name, it is characteristic of this plant for the blooms to droop to the ground. We doubt that propping or staking them up would work very well. According to this USDA Plant Profile map of this species, it does not grow at all in Cook County in the northeast edge of Illinois, on the western shore of Lake Michigan. Whether that has any connection with the growth pattern you are observing, we couldn't say. We found an American Hydrangea Society online, but it doesn't seem to have a database for questions and answers.

Since the condition you describe appears to be normal, perhaps you could consider planting some low, shade-loving plants, like violas, in front of the hydrangeas. We found a number of members of the genus Viola native to Illinois and to the area where you garden. There were others, but we thought this was a representative example:

Viola cucullata (Blue marsh violet)

Viola lanceolata (Lanceleaf violet)

Viola missouriensis (Missouri violet)

Viola pedata (Birdfoot violet)

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:

Viola cucullata

Viola lanceolata

Viola missouriensis

Viola pedata




More Shade Tolerant Questions

Erosion Control with perennials for a shady Dallas bank
July 25, 2013 - Thank you for your help with turf or perennials on a shaded bank, 4000 sq ft, for the Dallas area that has good roots, grows in semi shade to shade, is on a steep bank so cannot mow, and flowers the l...
view the full question and answer

Privacy hedge for shady area
March 27, 2009 - We are looking to plant a privacy hedge around the perimeter of our yard that will grow to 6 or 8 feet tall - some of the perimeter is exposed to sun and we will likely go with evergreen sumac - howev...
view the full question and answer

Native perennials for moist shade in Missouri
January 16, 2005 - I live near Adrian, Mo (s of KC by an hour). I currently have a small hillside that is covered by trees and shaded all day and also seems to hold moisture really well. The hill seems to grow a littl...
view the full question and answer

Shade and Rain Garden in South Carolina
May 08, 2009 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I have two seperate but important questions for your mastery of native plant knowledge. First, I live in a thick, 112 ft. tall white oak forest. Therefore, there is lot...
view the full question and answer

Drought & Deer Resistant Shrub for Shade in Medina, TX
June 14, 2013 - We are dedicated to native plants in Medina, but are desperate to find a drought and deer resistant shrub for shade. Would we be too far off base with an oleander bush? We know birds and most butterfl...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center