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» Articles » Plants » Hydrangea: Showy "Snowball" Ornamental Shrub

Hydrangea: Showy "Snowball" Ornamental Shrub

by Douglas L. Bishop on 7/23/2008 16:49

Hydrangea is a trouble-free deciduous shrub that produces large showy flowers consistently from year to year.

Although white is the color most commonly associated with the hydrangea, the flower heads can also be found in shades of pink and blue. The coloration of the flowering heads can, in fact, be altered somewhat by adjusting the acidity of the soil in which the hydrangeas grow. If the soil tends more toward an acidic reading, the flowers will be of a bluish coloration, while neutral or alkaline soils produce pinkish or white blooms. Hydrangeas that are grown in containers seem to demand more of an acid soil, anyway, if they are to thrive and produce satisfactory blooms.

In the outdoor garden setting, hydrangeas tend to grow best in a loose, well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. Even though they will survive and produce some blossoms in partially shaded settings, hydrangeas prefer a full sun location in order to thrive and produce plenty of large blooms. Plenty of moisture is also necessary in order for the plants to do well and bloom profusely.

In the late fall, hydrangeas can be pruned back heavily, and many gardeners cut the plants all the way back to the ground for the over-wintering process. This will not harm the shrubs. The top-growth is not very cold hardy anyway, particularly in areas where there are extended periods of harsh freezing weather, and the ground-level pruning can, in fact, actually help the hydrangeas produce vigorous and hardy new growth the following spring.

Many of the hydrangeas, especially the ones which produce lots of large blooms, may need to be supported in the early spring before the top growth becomes very full and heavy. This is easily done by driving three or four stakes into the ground around the base of the plant and then encircling the stakes and the plant with heavy string. As the hydrangea grows larger, the big leaves will hide the string and the whole assembly will keep the top-heavy plant from sagging to the ground, particularly during times of heavy rainfall.

One favorite variety of hydrangea, called hills-of-snow (Hydrangea arborescens), produces six-inch clusters of white blooms and is one of the most commonly planted varieties. It usually reaches heights of between 3 and 5 feet.

Another commonly planted variety, Oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia), is a hardy deciduous shrub with distinctive oak-shaped leaves and reddish-colored bark. The leaves turn red in the fall to provide a nice coloration that blends in well with the other changing fall colors such as the red and yellow leaves of the maple and oak trees. The large clusters of white flowers also change color as the season progresses, turning to a golden brown as they dry.

Add one or more hydrangeas to your home landscape for their showy blooms and thick green foliage to add density and contrast to your garden.

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