When you think of growing Annabelle hydrangeas, your mind might wander to quaint English cottages surrounded by picturesque and colorful gardens. You may be surprised to learn that Annabelles are actually an American species. They were imported into Europe only three hundred years ago. This flowering deciduous shrub produces enormous white blossoms that can grow up to ten inches in diameter. Annabelle hydrangea is a hardy plant and occurs naturally everywhere from South Florida all the way up to Iowa. It can survive in either hot, humid environments or through deep frosts. Annabelle makes a great border for your front walkway or porch. It grows between three and five feet tall and will bloom from late summer through late autumn. During the spring and mid-summer, it has pale, yellow green leaves that resemble flowers, and during the winter it can be trimmed to look like a hedge.
Pick up your Annabelles from your nursery in early spring after the last frost has past. Look for young plants that look healthy. Keep an eye out for dead leaves or dry looking plants and avoid these. Bring your Annabelle home on the day you plan to plant them.
If you live in the South or someplace with hot, intense sun, you need to find a shady or partially shady spot to grow your Annabelle. If you live up North, you can plant your Annabelle in full sun. Don't forget that your Annabelle will grow big and heavy. It is best to plant at least three together so that they can lean upon one another. You can also plant them behind some type of decorative iron fence or support system that they can grow through and lean on. Plant your Annabelle in a mixture of compost and soil and keep it very well watered, although do not allow standing water to accumulate. Even after this plant is established it will continue to need frequent watering if you want it to flower, especially if you live somewhere hot.
Pruning Annabelle hydrangeas can be a bit tricky. When your plants are young, cut them back completely just before the first frost. This will cause your Annabelles to grow bigger and stronger the following season. After years of doing this, however, you may discover that your Annabelles have grown too large and the stems can't support the weight of the blossoms. If this happens, you can skip cutting your Annabelle back one year. This will result in more but smaller flowers the next season. You could also get creative and leave some shrubs while pruning others so that you eventually end up with some huge flowers and some small ones.
Before you decide to plant Annabelle, you should be aware that this flower is mildly toxic. If your pets eat your Annabelle, they could suffer any number of symptoms ranging from vomiting to headache to depression. If the thought of putting your dog on Prozac does not appeal to you, plant your Annabelle in the front yard where he won't have unsupervised access to it.