Hydrangea Flowers

Learn about different hydrangea flower types and why some hydrangea flowers steal the spotlight better than others.
By: Julie A Martens
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Botanical Names: hydrangea

Include showy hydrangea flowers in your landscape. These beautiful shrubs are easy to grow, and when they’re in flower, hydrangeas can stop traffic. You can find a hydrangea to suit a variety of landscape situations, from hedge, to pretty patio plant, to trellising vine. When you include a hydrangea in your landscape, you open the door to enjoy the beautiful flowers hydrangeas produce all year long, because these blooms dry easily, retaining strong color.

Hydrangea flowers feature a clustered form and appear at the ends of branches. This arrangement of single blossoms into a larger head is what makes hydrangea flowers such a showstopper. That big colorful flowerhead on a hydrangea — the part that most people call the flower — is actually composed of what’s known botanically as bracts.

Typically hydrangea flowers can be grouped into three types or forms. The mophead or French hydrangea has a rounded flower head and is probably the most widely known type of hydrangea. On these flowerheads, the bracts are usually blue, purple, pink or white. This is the hydrangea that people refer to when they talk about changing hydrangea flower color. These hydrangea flowers are actually sterile and don’t produce seeds.

Oakleaf hydrangeas have what’s known as a panicle flower form. This type of hydrangea flower is cone shaped. The bracts (what most folks refer to as flowers) are gathered into an elongated cluster. On the native oakleaf hydrangea, flower clusters contain a mix of sterile and non-sterile blosssoms. Oakleaf cultivars, especially the ones with the showiest, largest flower clusters, usually contain mostly sterile blooms with large bracts.

Lacecap hydrangea shrubs are similar in appearance to French hydrangeas with one exception: the blossoms. Lacecap hydrangea flowers contain a combination of easily visible sterile and non-sterile blooms. The inner blooms, which may resemble buds when closed or a fuzzy flower when opened, are the fertile flowers, while the outer, more traditional looking hydrangea flowers are bracts.

Climbing hydrangeas open lacecap-type hydrangea flowers that are fragrant. The flowers open to reveal a flattened cluster arrangement, with fertile, fuzzy flowers in the center ringed with showy sterile blossoms (or bracts). Color varies somewhat from creamy white to greenish yellow, although the showy bracts are usually white.

Hydrangea flowers bring timeless beauty and old-fashioned charm to any setting. Botanically, these bloomers boast a range of flower forms and types. When you make plans to add hydrangeas to your landscape, consider including a variety of hydrangea flower types to stir even more seasonal interest.

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