Hydrangeas are gorgeous, fluffy blooms—they're wildly vibrant and come in a variety of colors, which is why you'll see them everywhere from backyard gardens to wedding centerpieces. And there's a hydrangea that will appeal to anyone's unique sense of style: There are over 70 species of these flowering bushes, but each follows the same general structure. Their stems produce multiple offshoots which open into a collection of flowers, explains Christina Stembel, floral expert and founder and CEO of Farmgirl Flowers. This connection of mini flowers growing together is what gives them their signature oversized look.
Because there are so many hydrangea varieties available to the average gardener, you can grow your own in a large assortment of colors, shapes, and textures. "Their petals can range from teardrop to pointed in shape and blooms can be rounder or more conical," says Stembel. She loves hydrangeas for their bright shades, as well for the statement factor of their blooms. "Whether they're cut stems or a living plant, hydrangeas are a classic option for gifting and, in particular, I think make a great gift for those with more traditional taste."
Since these blooms tend to grow wide and tall, it's wise to make sure you have enough space—it's just as important to know if you live in an area that supports their growth. To check, Stembel suggests establishing which USDA hardiness zone you're in. "While some varieties can survive in zones as low as 3 or as high as 9, most are happiest between 5 and 8," she explains. In addition to being watered at least three times a week, they require pruning for optimal health and longevity. Now that you've learned a bit about hydrangeas, here's a closer look at the different types—and what you should know about each before you begin planting.
This hydrangea type is perhaps the most popular—and its flowers typically bloom in blue, pink, or purple, explains Eddie Zaratsian, floral expert and owner of Eddie Zaratsian Lifestyle & Design. Believe it or not, you actually have some say over which color your mopheads become. "The color of their flowers is able to be controlled by adjusting the soil's pH—something that many plant owners love," he says.
Lacecaps are similar to mophead hydrangeas, except for the shape of their florals, which are better described as delicate blossoms. Instead of blooming in round clusters, as many hydrangea types do, the lacecap blossoms into flat cap-like flowers, with a bit of frill around the edges. "These flowers are larger and surround a head of small buds with blue, pink, purple, and white blooms," explains Zaratsian. "These hydrangeas are actually native to Japan, and they grow in shrubs."
These are one of the most well-known varieties of hydrangeas. Their large, rounded flower heads are most often pink or blue—and are stand-outs in any garden. Like other hydrangea types, gardeners can achieve a multi-colored or color change effect by adjusting the soil's pH.
The mountain variety, on the other hand, is perhaps the least common in the bigleaf family, says Zaratsian. "Mountain hydrangeas are much smaller when it comes to both their shrub height (two to three feet) and their flowers; however, they are survivors—they can live in extremely harsh climates, making them incredibly resilient plants," he says.
These flowers are unique in the fact that they tend to grow in cone-shaped bunches or panicles. In addition to growing quite large in size (compared to the rest of the hydrangea species), they are the only variety of hydrangeas that can grow into full trees. For this reason, Zaratsian says that it's important to give this type of hydrangeas quite a great deal of space before planting them.
Endless Summer Hydrangeas
The name alone implies a magical quality—and its true, this certainly isn't your average hydrangea. Unique in their pale blue hue and the sturdiness of growth, Endless Summer hydrangeas come in a myriad of additional subtypes, including the All Summer Beauty, which has an even deeper blue, as well as Nikko Blue, which has a violet and blue range, explains Oleta Collins, florist and owner of Flourishing Art Design Studio in Bakersfield, California. These are also widely available in grocery and hardware stores.
This type of hydrangea gets its name from its favorite activity—winding its way up all sorts of surfaces, from trees and walls to even house exteriors. Martha's own home is decorated with this crawling variety. She first planted them to cover the trunks of large sugar maples and spruce trees that were growing near her house, and—before she knew it—they grew seven feet wide and 20 feet high. According to Stemble, mature climbing hydrangeas can reach between 30 and 80 feet in length.