Deinanthe caerulea – A Curious Blue False Hydrangea Plant

November 23, 2023

Summer is the time for vacations, warm temperatures, and flowering hydrangeas. Among the things that New Englanders come to count on in summertime include ice cream and hydrangeas in flower. Just in our small town of Boothbay, never have I seen so many hydrangeas planted. Due to our mild summers, hydrangea blossoms here along the Maine coast are enormous. It must be the ample moisture, warm days, and cool nights that lead to the huge flowers.

Deinanthe caerulea - a pretty hydrangea like (but not!) woodland garden flower
Deinanthe caerulea at Coastal Maine Botanic Garden by Rodney Eason

Deinanthe caerulea – the lesser-known shade plant

Everyone loves to see big hydrangeas in the garden, but lurking in the shadows is a lesser-known herbaceous relative:  Deinanthe caerulea.  This is hydrangea’s herbaceous cousin (hydrangeas are considered woody shrubs or vines) – who likes fertile, well-drained but moist soils in protected areas away from strong winds. 

This native of China has the incredibly creative common name of “false hydrangea.” Come on, guys, can’t we think up a better name than that for this strangely attractive plant with eye-catching blue flowers? How about “ground-cover hydrangea?” Or “little blue rarity that nobody else has?”

Dienanthe caerulea flowers
Deinanthe caerulea by 阿橋 HQ

We have a healthy grouping of Deinanthe at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens planted in a shade garden beneath a mature larch tree. A friend was admiring the clump this past weekend and suggested that we move some plants to a sunnier location as they would get larger.

I have a couple of spots in mind as right now, they are really tucked away, so only the plant connoisseurs will recognize them. For those who do catch a glimpse of them, they will see what looks like small hydrangeas with nodding, light cerulean blue flowers.

Dienanthe caerulea by Kristine Paulus (CC) via
Deinanthe caerulea Kristine Paulus (by CC)

Our plants are around 2 feet in height and slightly more in width. In researching this post, I see that there is also Deinanthe bifida, along with a hybrid between D. bifida and. D. caerulea . I definitely will look to add these to the gardens this year – particularly in the light shade areas they prefer.  

Have you grown any of the false hydrangeas? If so, what has been your experience with the plants?

– Rodney

Shop for Deinanthe caerulea

Where to buy Deinanthecaerulea, Deinanthe caerulea ‘Blue Wonder’, (Blue Wonder is understood to be synonymous with the Deinanthe caerulea), and Deinanthe bifida:

Related Blue Flower and Hydrangea Posts:

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It looks like hydrangea - but its not... Deinanthe caerulea

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