Hydrangea petiolaris is a vigorous woody climbing vine plant, growing to 30 to 50 ft (9 to 15 m) height and 5 to 6 ft (2 to 2 m) wide. It grows up trees and rock faces in its native Asian habitats, climbing by means of small aerial roots on the stems. The leaves are deciduous, ovate, 4–11 cm long and 3–8 cm broad, with a heart-shaped base, coarsely serrated margin and acute apex. The flowers are produced in flat corymbs 15–25 cm diameter in mid-summer; each corymb includes a small number of peripheral sterile white flowers 2.5-4.5 cm across, and numerous small, off-white fertile flowers 1–2 mm diameter. The fruit is a dry urn-shaped capsule 3–5 mm diameter containing several small winged seeds.