Strawberry-Vanilla but where's the strawberry? pic

njmomma(z6 NJ)June 28, 2014

Just picked this up 2 weeks ago at a local nursery. Loved the picture attached to it of a bi-color strawberry-vanilla. It had started to bloom when I bought it, only white, but I figured the pink will come. NOPE. All white.
It's doing well and seems happy in full sun and I like white flowers so I'm not completely disappointed, just wondering why it isn't strawberry-vanilla. It looks to be the exact shape it's supposed to be so I don't think it's mislabeled.
That's the tag with the picture still attached in the middle if you're wondering.

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njmomma(z6 NJ)

ok, just read further along on this forum that they may not show their pink for a few years. That's fine.

And I'm happy to hear they get big since it's at the back of my border and the ground slopes down. If the blooms get too heavy I can put a cord or heavy string around them and attach it to my fence.

Another question though, do I need to prune it? It's my first paniculata hydrangea.


    Bookmark   June 28, 2014 at 4:03PM
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dublinbay z6 (KS)

Hopefully, those were my posts about Strawberry-Vanilla that you saw. Yes, it took a full 3 years for mine to bloom two-toned, but it was lovely all white and is lovely two-toned now.

I would be hesitant to prune a paniculata. When I bought this house (long ago), there was an old paniculata well-established on the property. I assumed it need an overall pruning, kinda like I might do on a big shrub rose. The poor paniculata didn't take well to it, and started going into decline. I kept cutting off dead stuff, and more branches would go on dying. It took a couple years, but that poor bush really went down hill.

It was for that reason that I was excited about getting Strawberry-Vanilla--and I planted it in the same exact spot. So far I have let it do whatever it wants to do, without interference from me--except to provide a few supports for some bloom-heavy branches. I made sure when I planted it that it would have sufficient room--so there is no reason why I would ever need to prune it--and maybe kill it like I did the first one. : (

Maybe someone else has other advice for you and I'm just being a worry-wort at this point in time, but I have no intention of pruning this paniculata (or the other one--Pinky Winky--that I have) if I can at all help it.


    Bookmark   June 28, 2014 at 5:05PM
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njmomma(z6 NJ)

Thank you! I'll leave it alone then. Just fine with me.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2014 at 7:54PM
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It should be all white for many weeks, then pink for many weeks, then magenta. I would expect the pinkish blooms in mid-July and magenta in August or so but this varies with your geographical location (northern locations later). Of course, newly planted shrubs may be way off considerably on year one since the wholesalers make them bloom at unnatural times.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2014 at 8:36PM
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Springwood_Gardens(6B Pittsburgh)

Should see pink within several weeks. Otherwise, for natural growth in your climate, you'd be seeing blooms develop up to a month from what you're seeing now. VS is typically a July-bloomer, which puts it in the upper middle of the pack for hydrangea paniculata. VS turns pink fairly quick after starting white, and this is why you'll see both colors on the plant at the same time (especially when some buds flower out a week or two before others).

    Bookmark   June 29, 2014 at 8:17AM
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dublinbay z6 (KS)

I think some posters are misunderstanding what I mean by two-toned effect--NOT one bloom pink while another is still white (although that can also happen), but a half-and-half coloration on ONE bloom. It is that half-and-half effect that is so appealing on Strawberry Vanilla.

My Strawberry Vanilla--last year. The two-toned effect on an individual bloom is clear here.

I'd like to also point out that while Strawberry Vanilla is supposed to show some pink when it blooms, mine did not show anything but pure white for the first several years it resided in my garden. In fact, I posted a couple times on this forum wondering what was wrong with my SV--did they send me the wrong one, etc. I think it was in my garden for 3-4 years before it started making any pink.

Just wanted to clarify that--in case someone else is experiencing similar frustration that their VS is pure white for the first few years of its life.


    Bookmark   June 29, 2014 at 11:50AM
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It took mine three years to FINALLY turn pink. Boy when it did it was GORGEOUS!! I bought some Vanilla Sundae this year which are supposed to be a bit smaller so we shall see. I love love love this bush!! judy

    Bookmark   July 3, 2014 at 11:46PM
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SnailLover(5a MI)

I just bought a few of these. Glad to see such favorable comments about them. I love the foliage too. How tall are all of yours? I'm trying to decide the best place to plant them and height is a factor.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 11:51PM
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I noticed blooms in more sun get more pink. Here they turn pink the first year. It has nothing to do with the age of the plant. It's the weather or location.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 12:01AM
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dublinbay z6 (KS)

In my area, it seems to be more a matter of age. Mine is in full sun all day and in July, it is definitely hot here in Kansas.

Snail lover--mine is about 5 ft tall now--probably about that wide also. I seem to remember that the tag on this plant said it could grow about 6-8 ft tall. I know that the ancient one I inherited in another garden (same town) some years ago was about 7-8 ft tall and wide.


    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 2:57PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Every single H. paniculata cultivar will have a two tone effect when it transitions.

Vanilla Strawberry is runner up to worse H. paniculata Bombshell.

VS has very floopy stems and doesn't have much of a differentiating color than other paniculatas with the exception of a more creamy pink.

Pinky Winky is a better cultvar in my opinion.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 6:47PM
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I like Vanilla Strawberry the best. Pinky Winky has less full flowers. There is no comparison. The stems on Vanilla Strawberry improve over time. There is no comparison in the flowers of the two either.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 9:52PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Complete opposite for me. Pinky Winky is more full, more attractive color and stronger stems.

Most nurseries stop caring VS because they flop so bad mainly due to the type of solid flower that holds so much water.

Get a pic of our VS and I'll get a pic of my PW


    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 10:33PM
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If your Pinky Winky has fuller flowers than Vanilla Strawberry, they sold you the wrong plant. I noticed Vanilla Strawberry does flop some when it is young, but I've got one that is older and flops none. You can also prune it to make it stronger for next year. Prune it like my photo and you will see that the blooms don't flop next year. Pinky Winky has less of the white/pink flowers in each panicle. It's not as pretty and full. Vanilla Strawberry has such huge flowers. It makes sense that they would flop if they are on younger stems at the base like your plants. Those can either be pruned or give them time to thicken. Your plant does need to be pruned though. You will see a major improvement if you prune it this year.

This post was edited by echinaceamaniac on Tue, Jul 15, 14 at 9:22

    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 9:04AM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

My Vanilla strawberry flopped so bad it split so I no longer have one.

Its quite a sweeping statement to say I was sold the wrong plant just because its full. Honestly the plant you're showing is not that full so if you're PW was less full then I can understand why you'd give it the boot or not thinking highly of it.

Google the two cultivars and you'll see somewhat older specimens and you'll see pics of VS flopping much more often than PW.

Surely they will flop less as the wood puts on caliper but its the nature of the beast with the flower type it has. Its similar to Limelight and Little Lime which flop (after rain) pretty bad when they are young as well but not nearly to the degree of VS.

Just my observations based on botanic garden visits, own experience and simply viewing peoples specimens on google.

Thanks for sharing the pics! I'm two zones behind you so give me a few weeks, lol.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 8:10PM
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I think it's the way some suppliers are pruning the Vanilla Strawberry plants. I saw one with branches all the way to the bottom and it flopped. However, the new ones I got at Lowes are pruned to make a more narrow shape with less branches at the bottom. This does seem to keep them from flopping. I was able to pick these out from many plants. The issue is this plant produces blooms on practically every single branch. I think that's great but it only causes problems if you leave too many young, thin branches on it. Knowing all of this, you can plan for it and prune it to allow the stems to mature more.

I kept my Pinky Winky. I am planting a row of these. I put three Vanilla Strawberries on each side of my Pinky Winky. I don't love the blooms on it but I don't hate it. The blooms are less showy on Pinky Winky. I also got a Great Star to add in at the other set of 3 Vanilla Strawberries. I just wanted to mix it up a little. I just think Vanilla Strawberry is awesome.

The photo shown is a comparison of Pinky Winky vs. Vanilla Strawberry blooms. The Vanilla Strawberry has more petals because it has many more sterile flowers. That's why the blooms are so full.

This post was edited by echinaceamaniac on Tue, Jul 15, 14 at 21:14

    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 9:11PM
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dublinbay z6 (KS)

When my VS was younger, I had to selectively prop up a few branches, but I would never describe it as a "flopper." It wasn't that bad. Now that VS is about 4 years old, she holds herself up. And I think she did last year also-- or not more than 2 or 3 props at most. But definitely none this year. Pruning had nothing to do with it--because I have never pruned VS. Maturity is the key--and watering it well on the way to maturity, perhaps. At least, I did water it well and frequently all those years.

I also have Pinky Winky but in a fair amount of shade. Whether it is the plant or the shade, I don't know, but PW has always had less full blooms and fewer blooms--though they are very nice. Just not big, fat, and showy like those of VS.

I like both my paniculatas very much. No trouble at all. Just remember to water them a lot.


    Bookmark   July 16, 2014 at 2:39PM
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Hello - Has anyone had any luck growing this variety in zone 9? Or in Houston, TX? TIA

    Bookmark   July 16, 2014 at 4:05PM
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Vanilla Strawberry blooms today. If your plant is lacking pink, it needs more sun. The blooms in sun are always more pink on it.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 10:43AM
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Look at you doing a collage. I'm impressed and I love it as well as love vanilla strawberry! To me it's the prettiest paniculata out there or at least that I grow. Great pics!! Judy

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 2:30PM
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