Decumaria barabara, woodvamp, or climbing hydrangea, is a perennial flowering plant that is a member of the hydrangea botanical family. This high climbing woody vine is an excellent way to keep a touch of green to a winter landscape, as it is an evergreen species!
Climbing hydrangeas are native to a very small growing region in the southeastern United States. They can commonly be found growing in super wet bottomland forests, and rich mesic soils.
A couple things to keep in mind when considering introducing a climbing hydrangea to you property is that they will need to something to climb on – like a trellis, arbor, wall, or building side – and that they will only flower when they are able to climb.
Though the climbing hydrangea is wonderfully beautiful and easy to care for, climbing vines aren’t for everybody! If you’re looking for something a little different, head on over to our giant list of Flowering Plants where we cover everything from succulents, ornamental grasses, to show stopping flower species, and more.
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What does Climbing Hydrangea Look Like?
Climbing hydrangea flowers are borne in flat tapped terminal clusters. They grow to be between 2 and 4 inches across.
Each individual flower is very small and pale white and has numerous stamens. They are highly fragrant white flowers that attract beneficial insect pollinators like bees and butterflies.
Flowers will bloom anywhere between early spring or late spring to early summer or late summer. Once a hydrangea flower is fertilized, it will produce fruit in the form of a fruiting capsule that is roughly shaped like an urn.
Certain varieties of climbing hydrangea leaves are deciduous, meaning that they will turn a buttery yellow color in the fall and fall away once the first frost of the season arrives.
Other varieties of climbing hydrangea, those that live in warmer climates, will have evergreen leaves. This means that leaves will persist and remain green all year long, regardless of the changing season.
Foliage is a dark green color with a glossy texture. Each leaf is oppositely arranged along a stem, and leaves will be either round or ovular in shape.
Climbing hydrangeas are a perennial, high climbing, woody vine. They can reach up to 9 metres in height, though they can be much higher if they are given a tall trellis to climb.
These plants climb through attaching aerial rootlets to surfaces. These aerial roots and rootlets create dense coverage and provide full leaf shade over the area where they are growing.
When planted where there is no support, this species can also be used as a ground cover plant. That being said, climbing hydrangeas will only bloom when they can exhibit a climbing growth habit, not when they are growing close to the ground.
Where is Climbing Hydrangea Native to?
Climbing hydrangeas have a rather small natural growing range, and they are native to the southeastern United States. This extends from New York and southward to Florida, then westward to Louisiana.
They can be found growing prosperously and wild in coastal plains, wet bottomland forests, and rich mesic soils in the Appalachian mountains. These plants can ground in USDA growing zone 6 through 9.
How do you Propagate Climbing Hydrangeas?
When it comes to the climbing hydrangea, it is best if propagation is attempted by softwood cuttings rather than sowing seed. This is because it can take many many years for a plant to bloom is planted from seed, and not all of us have such patience!
Firstly, pick a softwood cutting from an existing climbing hydrangea – one that appears to be growing very robustly and has healthy looking leaves. It is best that the cutting does not have buds forming.
Take a pair of very sharp shears and cut the piece about 2 inches below a leaf node. The piece should be 3-5 inches in length.
Next, fill a planting tray with a mixture of pearlite, loam, and a good amount of organic matter as well. Bury the bottom half of the cutting into the mixture, with the leaves sticking out of the earth.
At this stage, young hydrangeas prefer to have warm temperatures, but low light. If possible, find a clear plastic lid or wrap to cover your planting tray. This will create the ideal environment for successful rooting.
It will take about a month for these cuttings to begin to take root. Once this happens, transplant each individual cutting into its own individual pot. At this stage, bring the young plants outside to bask in the morning sun, but bring them back inside to ensure they don’t get scorched.
After about another month, they will be well established enough to be transplanted to an area in your garden. Pick a part of your property that receives partial shade, as these plants are rather sensitive to sun scorch.
They prefer to exist in moist soil that is partially acidic, but that is rich in humus and organic matter. If you have more than one young plant, ensure that they are planted at least 2 metres apart from one another.
What are the Growing Conditions of a Climbing Hydrangea?
Climbing hydrangea plants seem to perform best in soils that are moist and well drained. Soil should be quite rich in organic matter and closer to acidic than alkaline.
The utmost important detail is to keep soil moist but that it does not become waterlogged. Though they are tolerant to periodic flooding, consistently wet soil can lead to root rot. A great way to keep soil moist is by layering the topsoil with mulch.
Climbing hydrangeas require at least 1 inch of water per week, whether than be through natural rainfall or through irrigation. They will need more watering during hot summers.
Climbing hydrangeas are rather sensitive to full sun, and will perform far better in partial shade or full shade. Full sun may result in leaf scorch, or lack of flower blooms, so simply ensure they have plenty of afternoon shade.
Climbing hydrangeas are not particularly cold hardy, and can only exist in USDA growing zone 6 through 9. They prefer to exist in the southeastern United States type of climate. Young plants require temperatures occurring between 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit in order to produce flower blooms.
The climbing hydrangea typically does not require fertilizer within the first years of its life, nor to encourage flower blossoming. If a plant seems to be performing poorly, simply incorporate some compost into the soil to increase nutrients.
This flowering vine is a rather rambunctious climber, and pruning is required in order to keep a plant tidy and manicured. They can be rather sensitive to over pruning, so don’t go overboard when first starting.
You can deadhead hydrangea flowers that are on their way out to keep a neat appearance, or snip away stalks that are exhibiting unruly growth. Otherwise, prune away branches that are growing awkwardly, or appear is being sickly.
Though they are moderately low maintenance, there are some things to keep in mind to keep your climbing hydrangea happy and healthy.
Though they are tolerant to both drought and flooding, this is only a periodic tolerance. They are rather intolerant to full sun conditions, and they are intolerant to low nutrient soil as well. But at the end of the day, these are all easy things to maintain!
How are Climbing Hydrangeas Used?
Climbing hydrangeas are a go-to choice for gardeners who are looking for a rigorous climbing vine. They’re excellent because in warm climates they bear evergreen leaves, which will keep a landscape bright all year (and lets not forget about the beautiful white flower clusters)!
Though they can grow as a ground cover shrub, they will only bloom as a climbing plant, and tend to exhibit the most attractive growth habits as climbers as well.
Planting climbing hydrangea vine next to a building, fence, trellis, arbor, large tree (though they can damage tree bark), or other structure will help the plant attach its aerial roots, where you can then leave it to climb to its hearts content.