Bigleaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla) have changed significantly in the past few years. While the big, blowsy flowers have always stolen the show in May and June, gardeners intent on having hydrangeas in their gardens can now select types that bloom throughout the summer.
(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on July 30, 2009. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published article smay not be able to respond to your questions.)
In September, 1998, in a St. Paul, Minnesota wholesale grower's stock, Dirr found a row of Hydrangea macrophyllablooming on the current year's wood, according to Adrian Higgins in the July, 2006 Washington Post article "The Hydrangea That Keeps on Giving." From this discovery, many new cultivars have been developed that extend the range and bloom period of the mophead hydrangeas.
The cultivars are divided into two different groups; the hortensias, informally called mopheads, that have large, showy clusters of sterile blooms and the lacecaps that have flat heads with tiny fertile flowers in the center surrounded by larger-petaled, sterile flowers. Both types are worthy landscape subjects and have graced American gardens for many years.
How are the New Hydrangeas Different?
Up until a few years ago, the bigleaf hydrangeas bloomed only on wood produced during the previous season. Recently, remontant types have been introduced that bloom on both old and new wood, enabling them to bloom over a much longer season. Other free-flowering types reflower from old growth, so the flowering season is extended for this group, as well.
Gardeners in cold regions can more successfully grow the remontant hydrangeas because they bloom even if the summer's growth is killed back by freezing winter temperatures. Gardeners in warmer climates do not fear a late frost that could zap their blooms for the season. Pruning mistakes become less critical since a plant would still bloom, even if the errant gardener cut the shrubs back to the ground in late winter.
All hydrangeas in the lists below are cultivars of Hydrangea macrophylla. Like most of the older members of this group, color is influenced by the alkalinity or acidity of the soil. All are mopheads unless otherwise indicated.
'Blushing Bride' - blossoms start out white with blue or pink tints; bred from Endless Summer®
While the lists above are not complete, they give a good idea of types available. Breeders continue to cross cultivars, species, and genera to produce more and different kinds. Gardeners look on with anticipation to see what miracles may happen in the world of hydrangeas.
Thanks to Rillalev for the image of Endless Summer, to Bootandall for Hydrangea 'Preziosa', and to Soulgardenlove for 'Forever and Ever Pink'.
About Marie Harrison
Serving as a board member for Valparaiso Garden Club, the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs and the Deep South Region, and National Garden Clubs takes a chunk of my time and attention. Being a Master Flower Show Judge, a Floral Design Instructor, instructor of horticulture for National Garden Clubs, and a University of Florida Master Gardener crowds a bit more into my busy days. In addition to these activities, I contribute regularly to Florida Gardening magazine and other publications. I am author of four gardening books, all published by Pineapple Press, Sarasota, Florida. Read about them and visit me at www.mariesgardenanddesign.com.