Main > Hydrangea
Hydrangea (common name Hydrangea) is a genus of about 70-75 species of flowering plants native to southern and eastern Asia (from Japan to China, the Himalaya and Indonesia) and North and South America. By far the greatest species diversity is in eastern Asia, notably China and Japan. Most are shrubs 3-6 feet tall tall, but some are small trees, and others are climbing vines reaching up to 40 feet. Hydrangeas can be either deciduous or evergreen, though the widely cultivated temperate species are all deciduous.
Hydrangea flowers are produced from early spring to late autumn; they grow in flowerheads at the ends of the stems. In many species, the flowerheads contain two types of flowers, small fertile flowers in the middle of the flowerhead, and large, sterile bract-like flowers in a ring around the edge of each flowerhead. Other species have all the flowers fertile and of the same size.
In most species the flowers are white, but in some species (notably H. macrophylla), can be blue, red, pink, or purple. In these species the exact colour often depends on the pH of the soil; acidic soils produce blue and purple flowers, and alkaline soils results in pink and red. Hydrangeas are one of very few plants that accumulate aluminium. Aluminium is released from acidic soils, and in some species, forms complexes in the hydrangea flower giving them their blue color.
Cultivation and uses
Hydrangeas are popular ornamental plants, grown for their large flowerheads, with Hydrangea macrophylla being by far the most widely grown with over 600 named cultivars, many selected to have only large sterile flowers in the flowerheads.
Some are best pruned on an annual basis when the new leaf buds begin to appear. If not pruned regularly, the bush will become very 'leggy', growing upwards until the weight of the stems is greater than their strength, at which point the stems will sag down to the ground and possibly break. Other species only flower on 'old wood'. Thus new wood resulting from pruning will not produce flowers the following season.