Sunday, August 09, 2009


For some reason, Hydrangeas always remind me of grandmas...maybe that's why I love them so much. According to Wikipedia, the Hydrangea is native to Southern and Eastern Asis as well as North and South America.

Hydrangeas come in 3 basic styles; the mophead, the lacecap, and a cone shaped flower cluster. The mophead variety is by far the most popular with more than 600 cultivars. It is my favorite, but the lacecap is growing on me. This is a flatter shaped flower cluster with small, fertile flowers in the center, surrounded by larger infertile flowers - much like a lace cap.

Most Hydrangeas are naturally a creamy white but can range in color from deep to light blue, through the shades of purple and into the pinks. The color depends on the PH of the soil: A neutral soil will produce white flowers; an acidic soil will produce blue flowers; and, an alkaline soil will produce pink or purple flowers. Hydrangeas are hyperaccumulating plants, specializing in the soaking up of aluminum ions.

You can change the color of your flowers by amending your soil, however, newer cultivars have been developed to produce specific colors of flowers. You can change these colors a bit or, enhance them with soil amendments, but if you bought a bright pink cultivar, chances are you'll never get it to turn blue. A few years ago I saw a beautiful creamy yellow hydrangea cultivar on Martha Stewart's TV show, but I have never seen it since.

Hydrangeas like a moist, well drained soil and sunlight. They can tolerate some shade and I would recommend afternoon shade. Hydrangeas that have the full afternoon (hottest) sun tend to have faded flowers. Pruning should be judicious - most hydrangeas flower on "old growth" - this years new growth will bear next years flowers. Plants that are severely pruned every year never get the old growth and stop flowering. My favorite way to prune hydrangeas is to cut the flowers for arrangements. If you have a plant with vigorous flower growth, you can easily cut half the flowers in a season and still have a beautiful bush in the yard.
More good news - Hydrangeas are hardy plants and can grow from Nantucket to Florida, from Washington to New Jersey. For more information on hydrangeas, visit the United States National Arboretum.


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