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Hydrangea ‘Fuji Waterfall’

Hydrangea ‘Fuji Waterfall’ bears pristine white flowers in early summer. It is also called ‘Sumida No Hanabi’, which means ‘fireworks over Sumida river’. These are just two of several names attached to this lovely hydrangea. I bought it as Fuji Waterfall so that is what I’ve always called it.

The entire plant exudes good health. It’s not just the double forms of the pure white flowers. The foliage is a deep, healthy green. If your soil has acidic or alkaline pH, you may notice the center of the blooms mature to blue or pink. Changing color due to pH is unusual in white hydrangeas. Then again, there is nothing ordinary about ‘Fuji Waterfall’, which is not always a good thing by the way.

Winter hardiness for Fuji Waterfall is zones 6-9. Some retailers specify zone 4, but I’m not so sure. I did read a review of it being successfully grown in Massachusetts. In zone 8a north Georgia, right in the middle of Fuji Waterfall’s hardiness range, it dies back to the ground every year. That’s the bad news. The good news is Fuji Waterfall hydrangeas jauntily come back to life as the weather warms. Some years it flowers and some years it doesn’t.

Frankly, it’s a bit ridiculous, both the dying back and the way Fuji Waterfall just rejuvenates itself year after year. It never gets very big.

Is the species serrata or macrophylla?

There is disagreement among experts as to what species Fuji Waterfall hydrangeas belong. It’s either serrata or macrophylla and there doesn’t seem to be a consensus. Both Hydrangea macrophylla and Hydrangea serrata normally bloom on old wood. My Fuji Waterfall blooms on new wood every year so this only adds to the confusion.

I’ve read plenty of persuasive arguments on both sides and I’m not really concerned either way.

Grow Hydrangea ‘Fuji Waterfall’ like a macrophylla and you will be fine. Morning sun, afternoon shade,  and rich, well-drained soil are all that is needed.

Fuji Waterfall hydrangea in flower

Fuji Waterfall in bloom on May 31 in GeorgiaHydrangea ‘Fuji Waterfall’ tends to have floppy cascading stems. The moniker ‘waterfall’ refers either to the nodding nature of the panicles or the way the plant tends to grow out and down. Perhaps it’s both.

Mine grows in shade. So much shade in fact that a threadleaf Japanese maple with leaves almost to the ground hides any evidence there is a hydrangea even present until Fuji Waterfall peaks through every year. I thought I might move the hydrangea, but the wispy limbs of the Japanese maple help support the stems.

Unlike most hydrangeas, Fuji Waterfall doesn’t look great as a specimen. Don’t plant it on an island and expect it to be a star. Because of the winter dieback and their growth habit, Fuji Waterfall hydrangeas will actually look best tucked between stouter plants, ready to steal the show.

That’s not a new plant. It is typical Fuji Waterfall growth after winter dieback. The flowers at the top left of the photograph provide an excellent example of the ‘waterfall’ effect of the blooms. Don’t plant Fuji Waterfall by itself as a specimen. It does better with plenty of company around it. Plant it where it can peak through and surprise you with its blooms.

There is confusion about the name

This cultivar is grown in the florist trade and is offered for sale to gardeners. It’s even sold in grocery stores apparently. I’m pretty sure I paid $30 or so for mine and I bet they’re not paying that much for one down at the Publix. Still, I’m grateful.

As a result of all these shenanigans, and perhaps to circumvent a patent, you will see it offered as Fuji Waterfall, Sumida No Hanabi, Shooting Star, and Hanabi.

It’s one of my favorite hydrangeas even with the dieback and confusion, or maybe because of it. The beauty of the plant is undeniable and so what if it has a checkered past. It is so relentlessly healthy and those flowers sure are something.

Genus/speciesHydrangea serrata ‘Fuji Waterfall’
Common name(s)Fuji waterfall hydrangea, Sumida No Hanabi, Shooting Star hydrangea
Of noteThere is disagreement as to whether the species is serrata or macrophylla…I have no opinion – Winter dieback is severe with Fuji Waterfall hydrangeas but they come back and flower each year.
Water requirementsaverage, moist soil conditions
Soil qualityrich, well-drained
Suggested use(s)cottage gardens, mixed borders/perennial beds, shade gardens, understory
Hardiness zone(s)6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b
Deer resistantno
Deciduous or evergreendeciduous
Flower colorwhite
Bloom periodsummer
Exposureafternoon shade, filtered light


  1. Kristina Martinez

    I love my Hanabi! Well I have MANY of them. They are so so so ummm Japanese looking! Dainty and sparkly!

  2. Katherine Brock

    I’ve been in love with this unique beauty for over ten years and it’s well worth nurturing and keeping.

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