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When thinking hydrangeas, most people think of only the one hydrangea with blue blooms. Did you know that there are actually six family types of hydrangeas? This is where the confusion begins. I am going to do my best in explaining the hydrangea family.
Here are the six main types of hydrangeas commonly grown here in Central Virginia: BIGLEAF, PANICLE, SMOOTH, REMONTANT, CLIMBING, and OAKLEAF. Of these six family types, Bigleaf, Panicle, Smooth, and Oakleaf are the most popular. So, I am going to concentrate my blog on these four in order to reduce the confusion.
Bigleaf is a macrophylla – in Latin, macro means big and phylla means leaf. These hydrangeas may also be called mophead or lacecap. This family of hydrangea blooms on old wood. It sets its bloom wood in mid-summer and carries this wood through the winter to bloom later in the spring. So, the proper time to prune a Bigleaf is just after it has finished blooming in the spring and no other time of year. Nikko Blue is probably the most popular variety of Bigleaf that most people are familiar with.
This family-type hydrangea is also known as PeeGee and PANICULATA. Panicle varieties bloom in the summer off of new wood growth. Some of the more popular varieties in this family include Tardiva, Limelight, Little Lime, BoBo, and Pinky Winky. Because of being a summer bloomer and blooming from new wood, the proper time to prune is during the winter / early spring.
This family type of hydrangea is also known as Hydrangea arborescens. Smooth hydrangeas bloom off of new growth (just like Panicle). Some of the popular varieties include Annabelle, Incrediball, Invincibelle, and the Spirit series.
A more recent introduction of hydrangea that has become very popular is the Remontant, which is a rebloomer. Endless Summer is the most popular Remontant variety. The reason behind the name is that Endless Summer will bloom on both new and old wood. Be mindful of any pruning. If anything I would suggest only cutting off the old, spent blooms and nothing more so as not to interfere with it blooming over and over again.
Climbing hydrangeas are not seen too much in our region. I think that they may struggle a little bit with our summer heat. This is why they are more prevalent farther north. But, just in case you are interested or if you already have a Hydrangea petiolaris then keep in mind that the white blooms are born on the old wood. And, be very careful with pruning in order to not interfere with the blooming wood.
Hydrangea quercifolia is one of my favorite. I love the flowers and I love the fall leaf color. Be mindful of pruning Oakleaf hydrangeas because they, too, bloom on the old wood.
All hydrangeas undergo some color change as their flowers age, but only the Macrophylla “Bigleaf” can change their color in a predictable and controllable way. It is not solely the pH of the soil that is responsible for this change — it is actually the presence of aluminum in the soil.
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