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HomePlant Guide: Hydrangea
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Plant Guide:Hydrangea

With their massive blooms and decadent looks, there isn’t much to dislike about hydrangea. Known as the chameleon of the plant world, this flower is all about making a big impact.

We’re all used to seeing hydrangea plants happily growing in gardens, or making a statement in a flower bouquet mixed up with some roses and lisianthus. But did you know you can also grow this one as a house plant? That’s right, bring the joy of this plant indoors and let the flowers brighten up your home time and time again.

In our ultimate guide, we look at the different varieties you can get, the meaning behind the hydrangea flower and explain how to care for hydrangea so that you can keep it happy.

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Types of Hydrangea

You might be wondering why we called the hydrangea the chameleon on the plant world. It’s because in some varieties, the colour of your flowers varies depending on the soil. This is particularly true for Hydrangea Macrophylla. If the soil is acidic (with a pH of 6), the flowers turn blue. If your soil is alkaline (with a pH above 7), they turn pink. Go for neutral soil and the flowers can be purple or even a mix of pink and blue. The only exception is white hydrangea – they simply remain white whatever the conditions.

Now we’ve cleared that up, let’s run you through some of our favourites. Oh, and don’t get confused if you ever see this plant called hortensia – it’s the Latin name for this one.

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Hydrangea Macrophylla

Bigleaf Hydrangea

This one is the big favourite amongst gardeners - you could say it delivers the quintessential English cottage garden vibes. It is also the best variety to have as a house plant and you can get it in white, pink, blue and purple.

In this group you can get two types, Lacecap and Mophead – we think their names perfectly describe the look of the flowers. Mopheads, like Endless Summer, are the hydrangea we are all used to seeing with a full and rounded flower head. Lacecaps, like Lanarth White, are flatter in shape (just like a cap) with a cluster of flowers surrounding a central ring of florets.

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Panicle Hydrangea

Hydrangea paniculata

This hydrangea is a hardy shrub that produces a dense cluster of flowers in the shape of a cone. The blooms, such as the stunning Limelight, are usually white or cream. For something different, go with the other colour option in this variety – pink. Most, like Sundae Fraise, will start out with flowers in a creamy green colour before changing to a sumptuously soft pink colour. Or you could go for Pink Diamond which develops into a deep pink during late summer and autumn.

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Smooth Hydrangea

Hydrangea arborescens

Hydrangea Arborescens, also known as Smooth hydrangea, come all the way from North America. This plant produces very large, showy flower heads that can get so heavy the branches may droop under the weight of the blooms. Most varieties are white or cream like the popular Annabelle, although there are some like the Candybell Bubblegum and Invincibelle which comes in shades of pink.

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Oakleaf Hydrangea

Hydrangea quercifolia

The name sort of gives the description of this plant away because the leaves on this hydrangea pretty much look like those you’d find on an oak tree. Fancy one of these hydrangeas? You will be in for a real treat, this one develops a dramatic show of colour as the autumn months arrive.

For a real showstopping display go for Hydrangea Burgundy which develops red-bronze leaves in autumn. Oakleaf varieties mostly have white flowers although there are a few such as the Hydrangea Amethyst where the blooms develop into a dark red colour.

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Climbing Hydrangea

Have you considered getting your hydrangea to surround a doorway or clamber all over a garden fence? Then you need to choose a climbing version of this plant. The South Korean and Japanese Hydrangea Petiolaris are the most commonly found climbing varieties, although you can get are other versions from Mexico, Chile and Argentina. A great example is the Petiolaris variety which delivers large white flowers that are similar in style to the Lacecap.

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Mountain Hydrangea

Hydrangea serrata

If you wanted to go down in size, then it would be best to choose the Mountain Hydrangea. This one looks very similar to the Macrophylla varieties but is more compact in size. Native to Japan and South Korea this Hydrangea has been suitably named because it’s found growing in the mountainous woodlands. The exact flower colour you get will vary depending on your soil type but good examples include Annie’s Blue, Cotton Candy (can you guess the colour) or a white like Warabe.

Hydrangea Flower Meaning

As you would expect from such a stunning flower, hydrangeas are packed full of meaning. For a flower as stunning as this one, it stands to reason that hydrangea are all about beauty. Head over to Japan and these flowers are seen as a symbol of perseverance. It makes sense when you consider that this delicate looking plant is more than capable of surviving throughout Japan’s rainy season.

They are also associated with gratitude and heartfelt emotion. This one comes from the story of a Japanese emperor who gave blue hydrangea to the family of a girl he loved to make up for neglecting her. Even today, blue hydrangea is given as a way of an apology. Maybe the perfect choice if you’ve upset your beloved partner recently.

If you asked a Victorian, however, they would tell a different story. They saw the hydrangea as a negative flower which represented boastfulness and vanity. It’s believed this is due to the fact the bloom produces magnificent flowers but very few seeds. We think a much nicer sentiment is the one you get for a hydrangea in white – it’s a symbol of purity. The perfect choice to celebrate the arrival of a new baby.

Opt for the flower in pink and of course, it’s going to be about love and romance – maybe a nice alternative to the rose on your wedding anniversary. Purple hydrangea are all about pride and royalty – we definitely need to get some of these to celebrate King Charles’ Coronation or another royal celebration.

You don’t often see green flowers, but it is possible to get hydrangea in this colour. These blooms are all about good health, youthfulness and good luck. The perfect choice if you know someone going for a new job.

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Hydrangea Plant Care

If you fancy bringing this beautiful house plant into your home, you’re going to need some tips on how to look after an indoor hydrangea.

Before we get started, it’s worth remembering its name. Hydrangea comes from the Greek words hydros (it means water) and angos (which means jar or vessel). In other words - a water jug. It’s probably all down to the fact that this plant needs a lot of water. When we say a lot, we mean it! Let it go dry and it can very quickly kill off this plant. When your hydrangea is in flower, check the soil every day – and even twice a day in warmer months.

These house plants will happily flower over the spring and summer months. When in full bloom, your hydrangea plants will need plenty of light – about 8 hours a day – but somewhere cool. If the room is too warm or it’s in the full glare of the sun, it won’t be happy. Give it a feed every couple of weeks.

When your hydrangea has finished flowering, it’s time to give them a helping hand in getting ready for next year. First step, repot your plant. Remember most indoor hydrangea plants are the mophead variety and, as we mentioned earlier, they change colour depending on the acidity of the soil. To avoid any surprises, make sure you use lime-free soil (it's alkaline). If you want to control the size of your plant, cut back the stems by about 3cm and then place in a cool spot. Cut back on the watering and don’t feed at this point.

When spring arrives, you’ll need to move the plant back into a warmer place and give it loads to drink. Forget this step and the flower buds may not form properly – which is kind of the point of this plant, stunning flowers. If you fancy popping your hydrangea out in the garden, now’s the best time to do it. Just make sure the soil has warmed up and any chance of frost has gone.

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Hydrangea Flowers

Fancy taking some hydrangea cuttings from your plant to pop in a vase? After all, you only need a few stems of this stunning plant to create a fabulous display. To get your flowers at their best, cut the stems at an angle and place them in water straight away. Once in the vase, if your flowers start to droop try reviving them with a gentle mist of water.

If you want to keep the gorgeous blooms going, you’re in luck because hydrangeas work incredibly well as a dried flower. To get the best result, cut your flowers when they are at their prime, making sure the petals are dry. Now place the stems in a vase with about 6cm of water. I know, you’re giving them water to dry them – weird! The hydrangea stems will soak up the remaining water and the petals will dry out naturally – it may take a couple of weeks.

When your hydrangea flowers are dried you can use them for a range of decorations. Go for a vase full of the blooms, mix them into wreaths or even add them to a flower cloud.

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Are Hydrangea Toxic to Pets?

Here’s the bad news - hydrangea are not going to be friends with your pets. That’s because they contain a nasty toxin called cyanogenic glycoside. Even worse, it’s found in every part of the plant - from the tiny buds to the luscious flowers all the way down to the leaves and stems. None of it is good news.

If your dog or cat has a good munch on this plant, it could end up feeling poorly. Symptoms include loss of appetite, vomiting and diarrhoea. On the plus side, they would have to eat a huge amount of this plant for it to become a serious problem. Probably best not to take any chances and keep it out of the way of curious creatures.

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Now you know all about the happy hydrangea, add a pop of colour to your home with a flowering house plant.