Hydrangea anomala petiolaris is an attractive, vigorous self-clinging climbing Hydrangea originating from woodland areas of Japan, China, Korea and the Himalayas. It tolerates many soils, even heavy clay, but needs good moisture retention and should be watered well in dry spells, particularly during establishment.
It takes a little while to establish, but once it has, it supports itself with aerial roots as it climbs walls, fences and even quite large trees. Once settled in, Hydrangea petiolaris produces masses of showy white corymbs (flat white plates of tiny white flowers) that last all summer and the foliage is fresh green with good autumn colour. As climbing plants go, It is also a very strong grower, and ideally should have plenty of space to expand although it can be kept within bounds with a judicious hack-back in autumn. Left to its own devices, H. petiolaris can reach 30' to 50'. It should be dead-headed, and pruned if necessary, immediately after flowering.
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Hydrangea 'petiolaris' is the perfect climber for a north or north-east wall as it prefers a bit of morning sun followed by some shade although it will tolerate dense shade. It is strong and vigorous and needs a wall, tree trunk or solid structure for support. It is ideal for difficult shady areas where the prolific white blooms will provide highlights in the gloom. It is a magnificent climber covering large areas with good bright green foliage and abundant flowers. It will grow in other sites but does not like full sun and windy dry spots. Altogether an easy plant to grow and very rewarding. The growth rate of Hydrangea petiolaris varies enormously depending on position and soil, but while it is not the fastest climbing plant, once established it moves deceptively quickly.
Hydrangea 'petiolaris' is healthy and generally disease free but can suffer from chlorosis if starved of nutrients when the leaves will become very yellow. A general purpose fertiliser will solve the problem. Occasionally it can be susceptible to rust and mildew both problems that can be avoided if dead and dying leaves are removed from around the plant.
The hydrangea is a very ancient plant and fossils of between 40 and 65 million years old have been discovered. Roots of hydrangea were used by Native American medicine men to cure lung infections and kidney stones but please don't try this at home! Many varieties of hydrangea have been cultivated in China and Japan for several thousand years.
In 1829, Philippe Franz von Siebold, a doctor and botanist, was expelled from Japan where he was working. He was accused of spying for the Russians and asked, politely, to leave. He did so, but with several varieties of hydrangea in his possession, including Hydrangea 'petiolaris'.