Pee Gee Hydrangea Standards

Today boys and girls we are going to talk about the summer blooming shrub known as Pee Gee. It’s real name is Hydrangea paniculata ‘Grandiflora’, paniculata meaning upright and tall, grandiflora meaning large flowered. Hence the P. G. This is a deciduous hydrangea that grows well in full baking sun that would fry most of the other hydrangea cultivars, expecially the macrophyllas, macrophylli? It flowers on new growth so it can be pruned mercilessly without the loss of any flowers. The blooms begin as a greenish white in bud stage, opening to white then fading to pinkish brown tones as they dry before going all the way to tan for winter interest.Ours are grown as standards, like the butterfly bushes, to give more room in the garden for growing things underneath. Click here to read the butterfly bush standard story. The above photo shows our largest and most robust shrub at home in the yellow/white garden with too many branches on its top. When the flowers are open it will weigh down the stems to the point of breakage so it’s time for a little pruning.
I usually take off two thirds of the current season’s growth before the flowers have fully opened. Not to worry, there will be more bloom buds formed to take us into fall.

Here she is, with a spiffy new haircut.

On occasion we have left some of the lower branches to grow too large and had to do major surgery. Also we sometimes forget to loosen the copper wire that holds the trunk to the post for support and it binds into the woody growth. Bad gardener. But this shrub shrugs off such maltreament. We consider the knobby growth *character* on the trunk.

As you can see in this most recent photo, the flowers weigh down the branches even without being wet. Imagine what would happen if this tree had been left unpruned, the flowers would be dragging on the ground, if not broken off. It has happened before so we are vigilant with the pruning shears. Even these flowers could be cut and the bush would produce more flowers this season, but we are getting close to the end of that window of opportunity. These will be left to look pretty until next spring when the new green leaves begin to emerge. At that time there will be a hard pruning to give the beloved lollipop look.

The flowers are like a bridal bouquet, so crisp and fresh.

This is Pee Gee number two, growing in the shrub border. This plant has not been as vigorous as the one shown before. This bed gets less water and attention from the gardener. Last year it did not bloom at all. Upon inspection, the soil had washed away from the roots and they were completely exposed. We built up the base with compost and made a nice well wall to hold the water better on this slight slope. Extra water has been given and we have been rewarded with blooms this year. No pruning was needed but there are signs of new growth now. One big factor for this bush being less healthy is that it was moved early on with the building of the deck ramp. These two hydrangeas were planted by me on each side of the old concrete steps that led from the back door of the house next door that we bought, tore down and built a garage on the site. They were only in the ground one year when the one was moved to the shrub border to make way for the ramp that leads from the deck into the upper garden. Maybe it wasn’t planted as well as it should have been, or watered, or who knows? It is now getting some special care and we hope to see it need that extensive a pruning as its sister soon.

Also growing is this cutting from one of the prunings. It was stuck in the ground behind some rosemary bushes and forgotten about for a couple of years. It was discovered during a rosemary pruning session and planted on a stake in a prime position. No blooms yet but it looks healthy.

Another view from under the deck shows our little hydrangea standard with magic carpet spirea and white heathers behind. The trunk on this hydrangea will be straighter and smooth since it has been grown as a standard from the beginning, unlike the other two that were bushes in the beginning. We are also proud of the copper watering device seen in the back right that was found at a big box store for a fraction of the price these types of water sprinklers are normally sold. It looks like a work of art as the water is thrown by the revolving rings.

Under the deck is our bouquet from last years pruning. It still looks pretty since it is relatively dry under here. If left out in the elements, the petals soon turn black and yucky. Do you like the concrete pillar form as the vase?

Here are the new flowers to cheer us as we sit under the deck and contemplate the garden. They may have been picked too soon to hold their shape for a year. If they get droopy we will make a new bouquet, for there are plenty of blooms this year. Thanks again to the rain gods.


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42 Responses to Pee Gee Hydrangea Standards

  1. Leah/ Texas/ United States says:

    what pretty hydrangeas. they are my favorite flower. i didnt know they grew on trees. the neighbors across the street when I lived in california had bushes of hydrangeas and they always changed color – my mom (an amazing gardener) told me it had to do with the pH of the soil. someday when i live in a more moist climate I plan to grow a ton of hydrangeas. did you make them grow into a tree by ‘training’ the bush that way (is that possible), or does this variety simply grow on a tree?

  2. Ewa says:

    Hydrangea paniculata is one of my favourite plants. I grow Tardiva, Kyushu, Limelight and the one presented by you, Paniculata. The last one gives me most troubles, cos it doesn’t grow and its flowers are very small. Since 3 years it is exactly same size. Maybe it grows to close to Picea and has not sufficient amount of water? or not enough sun? You write it likes a lot of sun.
    I decided to move it to different place – do you think I shall do it immediately or wait till the autumn?

  3. Sylvia (England) says:

    I love your standards Frances, buddleia now hydrangea, they are both beautiful.

    I appreciate being able to click on your pictures and get a larger version, I get to see more detail of your beautiful garden.

    Thank you for a lovely post, best wishes Sylvia (England)

  4. Frances, says:

    Hi Leah, welcome and thanks for stopping by. These hydrangeas are trained to tree form by selecting one main branch and attaching that to a strong support. I use a metal fence post. The other stems are pruned off leaving the top to grow full. This type of hydrangea only flowers white. The kind that can change color is the macrophylla like Endless Summer, those need shade and more water too. Hope this answers your questions. For more info try google, there is so much info online now, it is great. I use it frequently.

    Hi Ewa, nice to see you. I would move your pee gee when it is still time to get the roots settled in before winter. They do like full sun and good water, that may be your problem. I did lose one that was moved during the winter, so don’t do that. Give it lots of water after moving it too. Hope this helps.

    Hi Sylvia, thanks so much. I like to be able to see details in the pictures too, so will always make them clickable. I know it uses up more space on blogger, but will pay when I go over my allotment to keep them there. For a while anyway.

  5. Gail says:

    Frances, I love your lollipop peegee…such lovely white flowers she has in her closeup! I do think this is the best way to grow them. Pruning has always seemed difficult to me! A few times I tried it I surely cut off the wrong branches but this might be doable by me;)

    Your garden looks wonderful, I can see it in those clickable shots! When I use my camera the photos are all clickable but not my husbands Cannon…don’t know why!


  6. tina says:

    You know Frances, the more I look at my butterfly bush and try to imagine making it into a standard, the more I get overwhelmed. How did you do it? And to do it to PG too? How long does it take? My problem is TOO many branches low to the ground. No patience either. I sure do like both as standards though.

  7. garden girl says:

    Hi Frances, I can definitely see the appeal of turning peegees into standards and being able to underplant them.

    Hydrangeas are another of those plants I’ve always had in the garden but not yet here.

    I’m lusting after some at the nursery, just waiting for the 1/2 price sale which should be coming up soon and is better than my employee discount. Hopefully there will still be some of my picks left by then!

  8. Frances, says:

    Hi Gail, thanks. I am sure you could do this type of pruning, it’s like hair, if you make a bad cut it will grow back. I use a Canon camera and load the photos on size large on blogger. I don’t know why you can click on them, it may be the program that you load them onto your computer with? I don’t have any idea really, that was a stab in the dark.

    Hi Tina, thanks. The hard part is choosing which branch to be the trunk. I chose the longest thickest one and tied it to a stake and snipped off the tip to make it branch. Then slowly cut off the others starting at the bottom, not taking too much off before the plant could recover.
    It looks terrible and puny for a year or so if your leader is skinny. My neighbor did his butterfly bush that was massive that way and had a good stout stem to make into the trunk. Then he pruned away the rest and shaped the top to make it branch more. It is fun. Buy a young one with one larger stem if you want to be safe and not hurt your older shrubs. Good luck.

    Hi Linda, thanks. Look for one with a good thick stem, sometimes they are nearly ready before you even begin pruning. Good luck on the bargain shopping. Both of these shrubs are generally not expensive.

  9. Siria says:

    Hi Frances! I remember reading your post on the butterfly bush and was fascinated by the idea…now I definitely want to try to train either my hydrangeas or butterfly bush (at least one of them) as a standard. I have four hydrangea now. The largest of my bushes, which I wasn’t sure what kind of hydrangea it was, I believe might be a pee gee! I added a limelight this summer. If I understand it correctly, I would do this in the Spring when new growth starts coming out?

  10. Frances, says:

    Hi Siria, thanks. If you have a pee gee, which flowers on new growth and is very vigorous, you could try and train it to tree form. I would do it now if you want, or spring, or even winter, they are vary hardy. You will need a very strong metal stake, fence posts from a home improvement store work well, get a five or six foot tall one to have a good bit in the ground, these can get heavy on top and need support. Good luck!

  11. Annie in Austin says:

    It’s fun to watch you boss your hydrangeas and buddleia around, Frances! The idea of standards has always fascinated me but I’ve never done it.

    Winters were too cold to trust to just one branch in Illinois – where plants die back hard, leaving multiple trunks upped the odds that at least part of a shrub would survive. Here in TX it’s the summer heat than can take out half a butterfly bush or most of a hydrangea.

    It looks like Tennessee is the right zone for making these cute Alice in Wonderland-style standards!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  12. Frances, says:

    Ha Annie, you are too funny! The first standard I ever did was in Houston, with a honeycomb buddleia that kind of looked already like a standard when I bought it. It needed trimming almost weekly with the rampant growth during summer. We had an underground irrigation system so it had plenty of water too. Sometimes here the buddleias die back to the ground, especially if I have pruned them hard too late in the season. None of that after mid August I have learned. The pee gee is tough as nails though and can be pruned anytime as long as it is well watered. We do live in a good climate zone for experimenting with things. We are moving toward zone 8 but have lost our good rainfall amounts lately, a trade off I would rather not enjoy. Give us back our rain!

  13. Skeeter says:

    I find it so interesting the way you prune these and the butterfly bushes! They are so unique. You have so much growing in your gardens, no wonder you loose things at times. LOL, how do you keep up with everything? I saw those sprinklers and wonder if they would work well or just be more of a pretty thing to gaze upon…

  14. Frances, says:

    Hi Skeeter, thanks so much. The garden is sometimes hard to handle, especially if I have been away or sick. I am chipping away at the weeds, pruning and design changes in my head as I scoot along pulling weeds in the gravel paths and edges. Just when I think I have it under control, I am away or something and it goes wild again. I really do my best gardenin in the winter.

  15. Mr. McGregor's Daughter says:

    I wouldn’t call them lollipops, they look much better than that. I was thinking, when I looked at the photo of the 1st one blooming, that it looked like an umbrella with flowers raining off of it. I’m toying with the idea of trying to make a standard Wisteria. Thanks for the inspiration!

  16. Roses and Lilacs says:

    Your hydrangea looks like one of those expensive weeping standards. The weight of the blooms pulls the stems into a graceful arch. Very nice.

  17. Frances, says:

    Hi MMD, thanks. I love the curve of it too. Good luck with the wisteria. I bought on of those one time and it got away from and and was coming up from the roots all over the yard, even on the other side of the driveway! Pretty though, but be vigilant.

    Hi Marnie, I see those expensive ones too, they have already done the work for you if you’ve got the money to pay for it. I do love the arch it makes too. Thanks for your kind words.

  18. DP Nguyen says:

    wow, PG sure is pretty. I love the delicacy of the petals. I would love it as my bridal bouquet. So pretty! I even like the yucky, brown color when it dies. lol. I just like the shape of each little petal.

  19. Frances, says:

    Hi DP, these flower hears would make a great wedding bouquet for you. That would make a real gardener wedding to have such a lush but growable flower to carry. We prefer to think of the brown flowers as *dried* rather than dead. HA Thanks for dropping by.

  20. lola says:

    Hi Frances, I really enjoyed your post. I remember seeing these when I was a kid in Tn. but never saw them as a standard. I agree the one pic does look like an umbrella but I think it looks like huge snowballs falling off. Very pretty.

  21. jodi says:

    Oh, I love PG hydrangeas! I like how you have pruned them; I leave mine profusely doing their thing. I have Limelight and Quickfire, and one other which name eludes me at the moment. Also have lacecap hydrangeas, which I think are the most lovely of shrubs, much more than the mopheads.

  22. Dave says:

    They look like great plants. I wouldn’t have thought of them as standards but that is a very creative idea to make more space underneath! It definitely gives the plant a more formal look.

  23. Sylvia (England) says:

    MMD I have seen some old and beautiful standard wisterias at Knightshayes, Devon, England. The ‘trunks’ are lovely and twisted unfortunately I have never seen them in flower but they look good any time of the year. I do think that they will require regular pruning during the growing season but worth the effort.

    Best wishes Sylvia (England)

  24. Diana says:

    Ah Frances, you make me want one of those, especially since it likes to broil in the heat! THAT is exactly what we need in Austin this summer. Yours are just beautiful and I think white is so often underused in the garden – it really brightens things up in the right spot. thanks for the lesson!

  25. Frances, says:

    Hi Lola, thanks for stopping by. The flowers are normally huge, bigger than those shown. Insufficient rainfall has affected everything. This is a very easy hydrangea to grow.

    Hi Jodi, I am so glad to see you. I was reading about your different colors but was too tired to comment, sorry. I love your quickfire and will have to look for it. I agree that the lacecaps are so elegant. I have a couple of new ones, but with the lack of rain they are barely alive, but most importantly, they are alive. Hope you are feeling well.

    Hi Dave, thanks. This would be a good one for you because it is easy to propagate from cuttings and gets so large. With your space you wouldn’t need to make it a standard.

    Hi Sylvia, thanks for adding that about the wisteria standards. They are luscious in or out of bloom, I agree.

    Hi Diana, thanks for dropping by. Annie mentioned something about the heat being too much for hydrangeas, but this one is the toughest in any conditions and might do okay with extra water and a little more shade? Our heat is not the same or as long lasting as yours, thank goodness. We complain about the nineties, what wussies!

  26. Leedra says:

    This is so different than other hydrangea. Never seen one of these before. I was looking at the flowers so much, did not even notice the skipper on the 1st photo. Love the way it weeps.

  27. Bobbi says:

    Nice Pee Gee photos!

  28. Frances, says:

    Hi Leedra, thanks for noticing the butterfly, normally these flowers don’t attract the butterflies, he must have been resting on the pretty blossom.

    Hi Bobbi, thanks.

  29. Jan says:

    I've never grown pee gee hydangeas, but I have grown all the others. This spring, I saw Limelight, a pee gee type, & now I am sorry I didn't get it. You have convinced me to buy a pee gee next time I see it. Yours are lovely.

    Always Growing

  30. Frances, says:

    Hi Jan, thanks for dropping by. The pee gees are as fancy as the macrophyllas, but are much easier to grow for us, especially during our drought. Hope you can find a good one.

  31. Roses and stuff says:

    What a beautiful standard! I think this hydrangea is lacking in my garden..such a beauty!

  32. Frances, says:

    Hi Katarina, nice to see you and thanks for the kind words. This is a hydrangea that is easier to grow for us and always blooms with breathtaking beauty.

  33. Rose says:

    I love hydrangeas! Knowing that these can survive “baking in the sun” makes me very tempted to plant some. I’m always a little scared to prune something I’m not sure about; good to know these can take a good haircut.

  34. Frances, says:

    Hi Rose, thanks for dropping by. This is the hydrangea that you can’t make a mistake pruning, thank goodness. We are terribly dry here still and they are starting to droop, but a little water will perk them up. Rain would make them the happiest however. Hear that, rain gods!?

  35. Benjamin Vogt says:

    I’m just amazed at what you get to grow, grow, as standards. Pretty neat. I have butterfly buishes around my deck, and since the builder built the deck lopsided, is sending someone out soon to fix it. This means the plants will get broken, so maybe I ough to limb them up or something. Actually, I’m just angry about it, what, it being butterfly season. Sorry I’m ranting.

  36. Philip Bewley says:

    What you have done with the hydrangeas is brilliant. by pruning this plant as a standard, you have both the beauty of the plant and room beneath for other plants. Well done!
    As always, I so ejoy visiting your garden. It is so beautiful, naturally one would dance and sing!!

  37. Frances, says:

    Hi Benjamin, thanks for stopping by and feel free to vent or rant all you want. Perhaps the best time to work on your butterfly bush is after the work has been done. Feel good about the work being fixed. Sometimes it is not possible to have things repaired that were not done correctly, the guy declares bandruptcy, for instance. One thing we have learned about having work done is that it costs more than you thought, there will be problems unforseen, and it won't be just the way your want it, ever. You can be upset by this state of affairs, or take a more philosophical approach, whatever works best for you. ;->

    Hi Philip, I love your comments, not just on my blog, but when I see them on other's too. You are so supportive and enthusiastic and I appreciate that very much. Thanks for dropping by and do come again.

  38. Dee/reddirtramblings says:

    Frances, I like your idea of pruning them and the Butterfly Bushes as standards. I’m going to think on that a lot more. Thanks for the info.~~Dee

  39. Frances, says:

    Hi Dee, thanks. Give it a try, it’s fun.

  40. diana says:

    i was thinking about buying a PG Hydrangea Panicula Standard…says hardy to – 34….i live in zone 3 and can grow zone 4’s…i have a rhododendron which has survived 2 winters now and bloomed…i also have a wisteria that i got to survive the winter and is small but growing… i am interested if this tree as it will get large will survive our winters if i plant it in a protected area…thank you

  41. Amy says:

    Hello, wonderful post! Im interested to know exactly how long the blooms stay white before turning? 🙂 I live in California, would this tree do well here?

    Thanks Amy. The blooms stay white until fall here. PeeGees are hardy in zones 3-8. I don’t know your CA zone, but you can go from there.

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