What’s new in shrubs? By Heather Machovina

Check out the latest breeding work in hydrangeas and other perennial shrubs to hit the market in 2024.

Hydrangeas continue to be a popular concentration in the breeding of new shrubs. Improvements in blooming power, flower and foliage colors, growing habit, and heat and cold tolerance can be expected in most new varieties available for 2024.

At Spring Meadow Nursery, Natalie Carmolli, media and public relations specialist said, “we’re breeding Hydrangea macrophylla/Hydrangea serrata hybrids that bloom more reliably on old wood and faster on new wood.”

The Proven Winners ColorChoice ‘Let’s Dance Can-Do!’ reblooming hydrangea is a breeding breakthrough that sets flower buds all the way up the stems, not just at the tips. If it’s cut back or damaged by cold, the lower, old wood buds will continue to bloom. It has full lacecap flowers that are purple to pink, depending on soil conditions.

Looking for the same ease of growth with mophead flowers? ‘Let’s Dance ¡Arriba!’ is also a hydrangea hybrid, with large round blooms that resemble a bigleaf hydrangea. These blooms are also pink or purple, depending on the soil.

For blue flowers, the new Proven Winners ColorChoice ‘Let’s Dance Sky View’ hybrid has mophead blooms that can be easily shifted to a sky blue. Both Let’s Dance hydrangeas are exceptional bloomers and all three are extra-hardy down to Zone 4.

Hydrangea ‘Lets Dance Arriba’


Spring Meadow Nursery

A Hydrangea macrophylla x serrata hybrid with large, dense mophead flowers that age to a mauve pink. One of the most prolifically flowering, fastest growing reblooming hydrangeas. Grows to maturity and fills out within a couple seasons.

  • USDA Zones: 4 to 9 (-30° F)
  • Height x width: 2 to 3 feet
  • Exposure: Full sun to part sun
Hydrangea ‘Lets Dance Sky View’


Spring Meadow Nursery

‘Let’s Dance Sky View’ bigleaf hydrangea stands out for consistent, yearly blooming, regardless of Zone. Selected for its ability to produce new flowers and conserve old wood buds during weather challenges. Flowers emerge sky blue with a light green eye before maturing to a full sky blue. It has a compact growing habit great for containers and garden planting.

Hydrangea macrophylla is a big deal at Bailey Nurseries too, with its new Eclipse Bigleaf variety for 2024.

“Eclipse offers the darkest foliage we’ve ever seen on a hydrangea. No matter where you grow it, Eclipse will stand out with its dark purple leaves that don’t fade and bright, cranberry red flowers,” David Roberts, director of plant breeding at Bailey Innovations, said. “Eclipse not only has great flower power but superior disease resistance which means growers and homeowners alike can maintain this plant with ease and enjoy great color throughout the year,” he said.

Eclipse has been evaluated from Georgia to Florida, Louisiana to New Jersey, Minnesota to Oregon and in all climates. It has consistently performed and retains its dark purple color everywhere. “Growers in the South are shading up to 50% in summer and its deep color is still amazing! Northern growers have been able to grow Eclipse outside with no shading and the foliage is even darker,” Alec Charais, chief marketing and product development officer at Bailey Nurseries, said.

  • USDA Zones: 4 to 9 (-30° F)
  • Height x width: 2 to 3 feet x 2 to 4 feet
  • Exposure: Full sun to part sun
Hydrangea ‘Eclipse Bigleaf’


Bailey Nurseries

Eclipse is the first true dark-leaf Hydrangea macrophylla on the market with intense, dark foliage that holds its color. The striking foliage and dark purple or cranberry-colored blooms make a big impact at retail, in the garden, and in a decorative container. Eclipse is grower-friendly, offering mildew and Cercospora resistance and holds up well in a garden center.

Bailey Innovations has produced other excellent shrub choices for the 2024 season outside of hydrangeas. “We’re also working with a number of genera that offer excellent drought tolerance, plants like callistemon, nerium and vitex provide great landscaping options for anyone looking to be more waterwise,” Roberts said.

  • USDA Zones: 5 to 9
  • Height x width: 3 to 5 feet x 3 to 5 feet
  • Exposure: Morning sun, dappled afternoon shade
Physocarpus ‘Honeycomb Ninebark’


Bailey Nurseries

The large chartreuse leaves maintain their vibrant color all season. Honeycomb-shaped white flowers bloom in spring and turn shades of gold in the fall. It grows well in containers, looks great in the landscape, and can be shaped with pruning or left to grow naturally. Its medium size works for a hedge or color block along a fence line.

  • USDA Zones: 3 to 7
  • Height x width: 4 to 6 feet x 5 to 7 feet
  • Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Vitex ‘Queen Bee’


Bailey Nurseries

Improved flower power and long-lasting lavender flowers appear in mid-June and continue throughout the summer. The first round of flowers encourages a strong rebloom, ideal for scheduling production cycles. ‘Queen Bee’ is drought, heat and cold tolerant compared to similar varieties. Its larger size attracts pollinators and makes a perfect colorful hedge or focal point.

  • USDA Zones: 6 to 9
  • Height x width: 3 to 5 feet x 3 to 5 feet
  • Exposure: Full sun
Leucothoe ‘Lucky Leu’


Bailey Nurseries

Native to the Southeastern U.S., ‘Lucky Leu’ is a low-maintenance landscape shrub that performs well in sun and shade. It keeps its shape well in the garden and requires little pruning. New growth has a peach-orange color, with small white flowers in spring and foliage changing into medium green.

  • USDA Zones: 6 to 9
  • Height x width: 6 feet x 7 to 9 feet
  • Exposure: Full sun to part shade

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