The name says it all - it needs plenty of water. Hydor (Greek) means water, angos a jar or vessel (because the fruit is cup shaped). Most of the pot grown ones are Hydrangea (pronounced hiy-DRANE-gee-a) macrophylla, in the past mainly the variety Hortensia, which they are occasionally called. Macrophylla means large leaved.
They are low-growing shrubs with short woody stems with largish leaves and large round, impressive flower heads made up of small, star-shaped flowers packed closely together. Some varieties are lace-cap types, some huge pompoms.
Japan, introduced to the UK in 1788.
Different shades of blue, pink and white. The colour is affected by the acidity level of the soil - blue or purple in acid and neutral soils, pink or purple/red in alkaline mixtures.
Two common varieties sold are Hydrangea macrophylla (rounded cluster) and Hydrangea paniculata (pyramidal cluster).
Spring until Autumn
Pot plants: It likes bright light but not full sun and loves a spell outside in the shade in summer. In winter it will lose its leaves so hide in a dark spot and bring out again in early spring or plant it outside after flowering. Water plentifully to keep the compost thoroughly moist and feed every two weeks in the growing period with rhododendron fertiliser or similar. Never let it dry out, but if it does, stand the pot in a bucket of water till it revives. Even if the treatment works, the current flowering period will be shortened.
Cut flowers: Vase life is about one to two weeks. Hydrangeas are a very thirsty cut flower so keep topping up the water.
The first lace-cap hydrangeas to be discovered by a Westerner were H mariesii and H. veitchii by Charlies Maries while searching in Japan. He later worked in India where he was superintendent of the Maharajas of Gwalior's gardens.
Hydrangeas are the perfect choice for wedding flowers. They’re a hugely popular flower in the UK because of their soft, country-garden look. But if that’s not your style, the flower suits modern minimalist designs just as well.
With its mop head of little flowers, just three stems will form the shape and size of a bouquet; then you can ask your florist to weave a few stems of other seasonal flowers in between, using the hydrangea as a frame.
If your style is modern, choose one strong colour of hydrangea to make an impact; you could combine with a completely contrasting colour for added wow. If your style is country classic, look out for hydrangeas with a two-tone blush, that have deeper green or russet shading; these look great with vintage-style roses and carnations.
It is suitable for drying.