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Home & Garden

Learning to Grow in St. Charles: Hydrangeas prove perennial favorites

Many people have at least one hydrangea, and some have several. After some experience growing them, their aficionados will branch out and add different varieties of these beautiful plants.

Many of these hydrangea owners possess a Hydrangea macrophylla. They are widely available and perhaps the most familiar is Endless Summer. These plants also are referred to as mopheads.

Lacecaps are varieties of H. macrophylla (like Endless Summer), but with comparatively delicate, flat to mildly domed flower clusters displaying a large number of florets in the center surrounded by showier florets around the edge. Their common name comes from the resulting lacey appearance. Varieties include Let’s Dance Diva and Endless Summer Twist-n-Shout. Their scientific name is Hydrangea macrophylla normalis.

Hydrangea arborescens is represented by the classic Annabelle. It also is referred to as a smooth hydrangea. New varieties have been developed that have stronger stems for less flopping as they show off large, rounded flower clusters, as well as different flower colorations.

Limelight and Tardiva are cultivars of Hydrangea paniculata. Pee Gee is another member of the family. The flower clusters of H. paniculata varieties are cone shaped.

Hydrangea quercifolia (oakleaf hydrangeas) are represented by Snow Queen and are easily recognized by the shape of their leaves. Their flower clusters also are conically shaped. And there is the very vigorous climbing hydrangea, Hydrangea petiolaris.

Hydrangea serrata, or mountain hydrangeas, are rarely seen. They formerly were listed as a subset of H. macrophylla, but now have their own category. Native to Japan, they are relatively delicate, somewhat compact plants for protected areas of the garden. How much protection they require is a matter of debate.

Historically, I containerized them, so I could move them into my garage for winter protection, but my personal favorite did very well this past winter in the ground after I buried it in compost and then added a layer of mulch. It may not have been necessary to put it in a pot, but it was very handsome when displayed in that manner.

The best known and most widely available H. serrata are Tuff Stuff and Blue Billow, but my personal favorite is Shishiva. It is a little harder to find, but worth the trouble. The pictures show it. Perhaps you will agree.

Donna Mack is a University of Illinois Extension master gardener for Kane County. The “Learning to Grow” column runs weekly during warmer months of the year. Call the extension office at 630-584-6166 for more information. Feedback on this column can be sent to editorial@kcchronicle.com.

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