Use Climbing Hydrangea to Cover Ugly Vertical Spaces

As a shade-loving plant that will cling to any surface, climbing hydrangea was my top pick for covering an unsightly shed wall.

by Jessica WalliserFebruary 19, 2015

Use Climbing Hydrangea to Cover Ugly Vertical Spaces - Photo by Cassey/Flickr (

We have an ugly metal shed in the back part of our yard. From the patio, we get a clear view of its big, beige sidewall. This winter, I’ve been carefully thinking about something I can do to help obscure the shed from view of the patio. I like the idea of covering it with plant material, and for a brief time, I considered making it into a living wall, though I think doing so might be a bit too heavy for the shed and the extra weight could hurt it structurally.

My next logical thought was to plant some kind of vine at the base of the wall and let it ramble up the side, but I don’t want to have to install a trellis for a twining plant, like a clematis, a climbing rose or an annual vine. I need something that will cling to the metal wall all on its own. The area is also primarily shade.

After doing a bit of research, I’ve come up with the perfect plant: a climbing hydrangea. I’ve seen this plant many times before, and though it takes a few years to bloom, I’m willing to be patient because the results are worth it.

Climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala petiolaris) is a native of Asia. It produces aerial roots along the stems, allowing the plant to cling to fences, arbors, trellises, buildings and even trees much like the ubiquitous English ivy. At maturity, climbing hydrangeas can reach 30 to 50 feet high and 5 to 6 feet wide.

Use Climbing Hydrangea to Cover Ugly Vertical Spaces - Photo by Louise Joly/Flickr (

Subscribe now

The leaves of climbing hydrangeas are glossy green and heart-shaped, and though this vine is deciduous, the plant is lovely even in the dead of winter due to its cinnamon-colored bark. Climbing hydrangea will tolerate full shade but partial sun is best: the north or east side of a building or the dappled shade of a tree canopy are its favorite places. Our shed wall faces west but is largely shielded by trees, so it should be a perfect fit.

Climbing hydrangea’s large, flat, lace-cap flowers are creamy white and appear in early summer. As I said, they are notorious for taking their time to arrive, with a normal first appearance being five to six years after planting. They are worth the wait, though, because once they do decide to show up, there’s no stopping them and the plant will be smothered in beautiful blossoms every year.

The flowers are formed on year-old wood, meaning the growth that occurs this year will produce next summer’s flowers. This means that any pruning needs to take place immediately after the plant flowers, in early summer. Pruning in spring, fall, or winter removes potential flower buds.

I’m considering a new variety that has recently entered the market: Firefly climbing hydrangea has unique variegated foliage—dark-green leaves with a broad creamy yellow margin—that makes a stunning backdrop for its creamy white flowers. I think the variegation would look beautiful in this particular location.

Get more of Jessica’s favorite garden picks on

« More Dirt on Gardening »