Difference Between Snowball Bush & Hydrangea

Common plant names produce confusion from the botanical world. Various plants might share the exact same common name while having their very own botanical name. Snowball bush is just a term that some use for hydrangeas (Hydrangea spp.) and viburnums (Viburnum spp.) . Although they share the title snowball bush because of their large, white flower heads, hydrangeas and viburnums are distinctively different.

Plant Families

Taxonomists classify plants into families that share similar attributes. The snowball bush viburnum is a member of the Caprifoliaceae, or honeysuckle, family. Viburnum species which bear the familiar white, snowball blooms incorporate European of typical cedar bush (V. opulus) and also Chinese snowball bush (V. macrocephalum). Hydrangeas are comparable plants, which can be in the Hydrangeaceae familymembers. Many species of hydrangeas have the recognizable mophead flowers which bloom in shades of blue or pink depending on land pH. One hydrangea species, H. arborescens, has large, round, white blooms.


Depending on species, hydrangea blossoms might take round, lacecap or panicle shapes. “Annabelle” is the most common cultivar of H. arborescens, also called smooth hydrangea, in the nursery trade. It’s a small, deciduous shrub, reaching heights up to 5 feet and doing best in moist soil under shade. Growing in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 9, “Annabelle” has white, showy flowerheads that prompt some people to call it a snowball bush.

Snowball Viburnum

Both main viburnums called snowball bush common snowball bush and Chinese snowball bush. Although some viburnum species bear fruit, snowball bush is fruitless. Rather, its focal point are the large, round flower heads which open as lime green, however, change to white. Snowball bush is different from white-flowering hydrangeas in many ways. This is a bigger shrub that can reach heights of 20 feet and prefers sunny areas. It is not as cold-tolerant as hydrangea, growing in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 6 through 9.


Another significant distinction between snowball bush and hydrangea is when to prune them. Snowball bush blooms on the previous season’s old timber, which means you have to prune it immediately after flowering. Otherwise, pruning later in the season eliminates developing flower buds, which means it will not flower the following year. Smooth hydrangea blooms on the current season’s new wood. You can prune it from late winter to early spring and it is going to still blossom during the current season.

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