Hydrangea macrophylla: Hydrangea

Family: Hydrangeaceae
Common name: Hydrangea, Hortensia, Bigleaf hydrangea, French hydrangea, Lacecap hydrangea, Mophead hydrangea

Bigleaf hydrangea, is a captivating and versatile shrub that graces gardens and landscapes with its stunning flowers, lush foliage, and unique growth habits. They are native to Japan, but are now grown by gardeners all over the world.

The plant can grow to a height of 1 to 1.8 meters, forming a rounded and densely branched shape. The plant’s leaves are large and glossy, providing an elegant backdrop to its prominent flowers.

The leaves of Hydrangea macrophylla are indeed macrophyllous, or large-leaved, as suggested by its name. These leaves are ovate and coarsely toothed, growing to a length of about 15 cm. The deep green color of the leaves provides a lush backdrop that contrasts beautifully with the colorful flowers.

The most enchanting feature of Hydrangea is undoubtedly its spectacularly rounded, colorful flowers. These inflorescences can vary in shape, size, and color, making each variety a distinct masterpiece. The outer colorful flowers are sterile, whereas the inner non-ornamental ones are fertile.

Commonly known for its ability to change color based on soil pH, the Hydrangea produces blooms that range from blue, red, pink, light purple, or dark purple. The flower clusters create a mesmerizing visual display, enhancing the beauty of gardens during the summer months.

After the blooming season, Hydrangea plants produce inconspicuous seed capsules that develop from the spent flowers. While these capsules are not a prominent feature of the plant’s ornamental value, they play a role in its reproductive cycle.

The two main type of Hydrangea flowers are mophead and lacecap, each category having various popular cultivars in a wide range of colors. The popular cultivars are Grandiflora, Annabelle, All Summer Beauty, Forever Pink, Lady in Red, Pia, Blue Bonnet, Europa and so on.

These plants are ideal hedge or border plants because of their bushy branches and large leaves. Cultivating Hydrangea macrophylla requires some specific care to ensure optimal growth and vibrant blooms. Choose a location with partial shade, as direct sunlight can scorch the leaves and affect flower color. Morning sun and afternoon shade are ideal.

Provide well-draining, humus-rich soil. Keep the soil consistently moist, especially during the flowering period. Mulching around the base of the shrub helps retain moisture.

Prune Hydrangea plants lightly after flowering to shape the plant and remove dead or weak branches. Avoid pruning in late summer or fall, as this could remove potential flower buds for the next season. Apply a balanced, slow-release fertilizer in the spring to provide essential nutrients.

In traditional herbal medicine, the dried roots of hydrangea species have been used for their potential diuretic and anti-inflammatory properties. The leaves are also used in the treatment of malaria and diabetes.

Propagation is through cuttings, root division, and layering.