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

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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

QUESTION:

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.

ANSWER:

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

 

 

 

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