Hydrangeas! Everybody loves them. They are at home in almost any garden, and gardeners know it. Their lush greenery and long-lived flowers make them a favorite among landscapers and amateur gardeners alike. Hydrangeas bloom year after year, stay in bloom from early spring to late autumn, and some of them have the ability to change floral color like magic. Because hydrangeas are such a favorite, they tend to be a big seller. Retailers offer a range of different types of hydrangeas. It's important to know what you are getting, because there's a lot of variety. Some are different species, some are merely different cultivars. Cultivars are different looking plants of the same species (think: dog breeds.) Gets a little confusing, right? Well, here's a quick guide to the most common types of hydrangeas you can buy for your garden.
Macrophylla is by far the most widely distributed kind of hydrangea, with many cultivars available. It has triangular leaves and bursts of floral color arranged in either 'mopheads,' which are groups of flowers shaped like pompoms, or 'lacecap hydrangeas,' which are flat-topped groups of flowers.
These are the iconic color-changing hydrangea. They can grow in pink, red, purple, or blue. The color of the flower depends on the acidity of the soil, which the gardener can control with fertilizers.
Arborescens is native to the eastern United States, and can be seen growing wild in forested areas. It's commonly known by wilderness enthusiasts as smooth hydrangea or sevenbark. Unlike its foreign relatives, arborescens is on the home team. As such, it's hardy and cold-resistant and it doesn't deter native wildlife.
If you're looking for something a little different, paniculata may be for you. Its flowers are a little more spread out, grouped in cone shapes instead of balls. Paniculata's flowers are small and white, or sometimes light pinkish.
Also known as oakleaf hydrangea, quercifolia has gorgeous lobed leaves that look like that of an oak tree. Like paniculata, its flowers are arranged on long cone-shaped structures. Oakleaf hydrangeas makes a nice accent to a woodland-style garden, but anyone looking for the color-changing effect would be disappointed. Oakleaf's flowers are white as snow no matter what soil they are planted in.
So, there you have it. If you are thinking of getting some hydrangeas for your garden, have at it! Just make sure you know what you're getting. *Pictures taken from Wikipedia