Hydrangeas are one of the most beloved flowers in the world, known for their large, showy blooms and versatile growing habits. With over 70 different species and hundreds of cultivars available, there is a hydrangea variety for every taste and garden style. In this ultimate guide to hydrangea varieties, we’ll explore the different types of hydrangeas, their unique characteristics, and how to care for them.
Understanding Hydrangea Varieties
Hydrangeas are deciduous or evergreen shrubs native to Asia and the Americas. They belong to the family Hydrangeaceae and are prized for their large flower clusters, which can be white, pink, blue, purple, or red. Hydrangea varieties are classified based on their flower shape, leaf shape, and growth habit.
Bigleaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla) are the most popular type of hydrangea, with large, showy blooms that can be either mophead or lacecap in shape.
Mophead hydrangeas have dense, round flower clusters that resemble pom-poms. They come in shades of pink, blue, and purple, depending on the pH of the soil. Mophead hydrangeas are best suited for shade or filtered sun, as they are susceptible to sunburn and heat stress.
Lacecap hydrangeas have flat flower clusters with small, delicate flowers in the center and larger, showy flowers around the edges. They come in shades of pink, blue, and white and prefer partial shade.
Oakleaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea quercifolia) are named for their distinctive leaf shape, which resembles that of an oak tree. They have cone-shaped flower clusters that are white or pink and prefer partial shade.
Panicle hydrangeas (Hydrangea paniculata) have cone-shaped flower clusters that are white or pink and turn brown in the fall. They prefer full sun to partial shade and are hardy in cold climates.
Smooth hydrangeas (Hydrangea arborescens) have dome-shaped flower clusters that are white or pink and prefer partial shade. They are hardy in cold climates and can be pruned in late winter to encourage new growth.
Climbing hydrangeas (Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris) are a deciduous vine that can climb up to 80 feet. They have flat flower clusters that are white or cream-colored and prefer partial to full shade.
Choosing the Right Hydrangea for Your Garden
When choosing a hydrangea for your garden, consider the size of your space, the amount of sunlight it receives, and your desired color and shape of the blooms. Mophead and lacecap hydrangeas are ideal for small gardens or containers, while panicle and smooth hydrangeas can grow quite large and are better suited for larger landscapes.
If you have a sunny garden, panicle hydrangeas are a great choice as they can tolerate full sun. Oakleaf hydrangeas and climbing hydrangeas prefer partial shade, while bigleaf and smooth hydrangeas can handle full shade.
Consider the color of the flowers as well, as some hydrangea varieties can change color based on the pH of the soil. For example, mophead hydrangeas will turn blue in acidic soil and pink in alkaline soil. If you prefer a specific color, make sure to choose a hydrangea variety that produces that color naturally.
Planting and Caring for Hydrangeas
Hydrangeas are relatively easy to grow and care for, but they do have specific requirements. They prefer well-draining soil that is rich in organic matter and kept moist but not waterlogged. Hydrangeas also benefit from regular fertilization with a balanced, slow-release fertilizer.
When planting hydrangeas, choose a site that has partial to full shade, depending on the variety. Dig a hole that is twice as wide as the root ball and just as deep. Mix in compost or peat moss with the soil to help retain moisture.
Read more: Hydrangea Care: Everything You Need to Know
Water newly planted hydrangeas regularly to help establish the root system. Once established, hydrangeas need about an inch of water per week, either from rainfall or supplemental watering.
Pruning hydrangeas can help maintain their shape and size, as well as promote healthy growth and flowering. The timing and method of pruning depend on the type of hydrangea.
Bigleaf and smooth hydrangeas should be pruned immediately after flowering, as they bloom on old wood. Panicle and oakleaf hydrangeas can be pruned in late winter or early spring, as they bloom on new wood. Climbing hydrangeas rarely need pruning, but if necessary, they can be pruned in late winter or early spring.
Common Hydrangea Problems and How to Solve Them
Hydrangeas can be susceptible to a few common problems, including leaf spots, powdery mildew, and aphids. To prevent these issues, make sure to plant hydrangeas in well-draining soil and avoid overhead watering.
If you do notice any of these problems, remove and destroy affected leaves or flowers and treat the plant with a fungicide or insecticide if necessary. Regularly cleaning up fallen leaves and debris can also help prevent the spread of disease.
Hydrangeas are a beautiful and versatile addition to any garden, with hundreds of varieties to choose from. By understanding the different types of hydrangeas and their specific care requirements, you can choose the perfect hydrangea for your garden and enjoy its showy blooms for years to come.