How to Support Heavy Annabelle Hydrangeas

A woman pruning a hydrangea.

Annabelle hydrangea is known as the old-fashioned hydrangea, the kind found in gardens from your grandmother's day. They're even more popular today, and for good reason. Blooms range from 6 to 12 inches in diameter and can last for long periods of time in cooler climates.

They're fairly easy to grow as well, tolerant of deer, heat, humidity, rabbits, sun, and salt air. Since they also grow to a height and width of 3 to 5 feet, the Annabelle hydrangea requires support for maximum growing benefit. Here's what to do.

Step 1 - Space Appropriately

Take into account that hydrangeas like to grow free, and the Annabelle hydrangea, especially, needs room to spread. Appropriate spacing between plants is important, and will result in a more dramatic display of its spectacular blooms.

To help support the heavy blooms of the Annabelle, try planting three shrubs in a grouping, about 3 to 4 feet apart. The plants will act as a natural support to each other as they mature.

Step 2 - Prune Sparingly

pruning a hydrangea

Another method to help support the heavy flowers of the Annabelle is to prune very lightly. The stems, after pruning, should be only about 18 to 24 inches tall. This method of pruning allows the stems to thicken slightly as they mature. As a result, they will be better able to support other branches and blooms. A consequence of pruning is that the flower heads will be smaller, but there will be more of them, and they’re less likely to bend over or droop. In harsher winter climates, Annabelle should be pruned back to the ground. It will naturally have shorter stems this way, since it’s growing from the ground up each year.

Step 3 - Incorporate Fencing

Tomato cages work for supporting smaller Annabelle hydrangea plants, but sturdier methods are better. Try a large wire cage that can be purchased from a local farm or home store. Another method is to buy a flat panel of reinforcement wire (available at Home Depot or Lowes). Trim to the height required and cut supporting legs at the bottom. Fold into a circle and wire it closed around the hydrangea.

Step 4 - Try a Trellis

Some home gardeners find that an ornamental trellis works well for supporting Annabelle hydrangeas. Buy several, but make sure they are at least 3 feet high, and sink them into the ground around the hydrangeas. Many have lovely scalloped tops which add flair to the overall garden design.

Step 5 - Use Stakes

For large middle stems on the Annabelle hydrangea, individual stakes or tall, green supports will keep the heavy blooms from dragging on the ground.

Remember, the bigger the flower heads on the Annabelle hydrangea, the more they need support as the stems cannot handle the additional weight. Since the Annabelle flowers on new wood, pruning right back to the ground at the tail end of winter (early March in some areas) encourages sturdier stems.