Botanical Names: bigleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla)
Savor the bigger-than-life beauty of hydrangea flowers by adding one of these shrubs to your yard. Hydrangea bushes are not difficult to grow. Different types of hydrangea bushes benefit from specific growing conditions, but as long as you cover the basics, you’ll be rewarded with gaudy blossoms that linger long after the buds first appear.
The type of hydrangea bush that is probably the most familiar is the bigleaf hydrangea. This is the shrub that boasts large, globe-shaped flower heads in shades of purple, blue, pink or white.This hydrangea bush is known botanically as Hydrangea macrophylla. Other common names include French hydrangea or mophead hydrangea.
Bigleaf hydrangeas are divided into two groups — the ones that bloom one time each growing season and newer introductions that flower multiple times per season. The single-flowering bigleaf hydrangea bushes typically start blooming from late spring to midsummer, depending on where you live and the variety you’re growing.
Repeat-blooming hydrangea shrubs produce more than one flush of flowers during the growing season, so you get blossoms all season long. One of the more common repeat-blooming hydrangea shrubs is sold under the brand name Endless Summer.
The most important things to know about bigleaf hydrangeas is that they won’t flower if they’re planted in full shade and they are thirsty plants. Those big leaves demand a big water supply, so avoid planting this beauty in a spot that’s beyond the reach of the garden hose or your sprinkler system. If repeat blooming hydrangea bushes don’t get enough water, they won’t demonstrate that reblooming quality.
Bigleaf hydrangea bushes are relatively easy to maintain. They’re not too fussy in their needs. In early spring, prune out any dead wood. Save other pruning until later in the year, or you risk removing the flower buds that will help stage this year’s show. Fertilize hydrangea bushes in spring with a bloom booster type fertilizer that’s high in phosphorus.
Early spring is a good time to transplant hydrangea bushes. If possible, tackle this task while plants are still dormant. Check soil pH, especially for bigleaf hydrangea, and make adjustments as needed to shift flower color toward blue or pink.
Once temperatures are reliably on the warm side and soil has warmed up, add a mulch layer around hydrangeas. Pine needles make a wonderful mulch, contrasting texturally with the large leaves of this hydrangea shrub. If you need to shorten branches on a bigleaf hydrangea bush, do so right after flowers fade.