The Hydrangea garden shrub and Hortensia refers to 70 to 80 species of flowering garden shrubs indigenous to southern and eastern Asia, including the PRC, Japan, and the Korean peninsula, but also the Americas. The hydrangea is well known for its leaf shape and the vulnerability of its pink, white and blue flowers. They are ideal for cottage-style gardens and look beautiful when mass planted.
The mophead hydrangeas are notable for the fact they change colour depending on soil pH, which alters aluminium availability. Schizophragma hydrangeoides and Hydrangea petiolaris are both referred to as climbing hydrangeas.
Most varieties grow to one to three meters in height, but several come in the form of tiny trees, and others are more like lianas, capable of achieving a maximum of around 30 metres in height by winding their way up trees. A hydrangea can be deciduous or evergreen - but those brought up in a temperate atmosphere will all be deciduous.
There are two flower arrangements in hydrangeas. Mophead flowers are well-endowed round flowerheads with the look of a pom-pom - or the head of a mop. By comparison, lacecap flowers feature circular, flat flowerheads, fertile and gentle and enveloped by rings of elegant, sterile flowers. It is notable that the flowers of some rhododenrons can resemble hydrangeas.
Plant the shrub in autumn or spring in a moist, well-drained soil.
You can expect flowering to take place in late spring to late autumn.
Select a partly sheltered spot in the garden; it should never be placed
in direct sunlight because of the risk of leaf burn.
In addition, east-facing locations should be avoided as cold winds can delay young spring growth. Mix lots of organic matter with the soil before planting, and replenish regularly over a period of months. As for the content of this organic matter, you could apply rotted leafmould, garden compost, old bark, even farmyard manure.
In lighter, drier soil, take care to feed in early spring, with the use of a flowering shrub fertiliser. This should be satisfactory for the whole of the season, but it is not really worth going to these lengths if you are working with richer soil.
Over-feeding can promote overly soft, leafy growth, with plants less capable of producing flower buds and more vulnerable to frost in harsh winters. Use rainwater to water the plant - hard water from the mains can change flower colour, transforming blue flowers to mauve and pink. You will need to use a significant volume of water for this shrub, or it will begin to wilt, as the roots are working too hard.
Cultivars with blue flowers will retain their blue hue if you
keep to acidic soil (pH 4.5-5), or by using aluminium sulphate-based
hydrangea blueing compounds, like azalea or camellia fertiliser. This
approach works particularly well if you’re growing the plants in a
If you want to boost red or pink flowers, use ground limestone or chalk at a rate of 75-100g per square metre (2-3oz sq yd) in the winter months. Pruning is generally carried out in spring.
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