Hydrangeas are popular, hardy garden shrubs highly valued for their late summer flowers in shades of pink, white or blue. The best known are the mophead and lacecap hydrangeas with their large, showy flower heads which persist for many months and may even be dried for winter decoration indoors. Other hydrangeas such as the paniculata cultivars bear large, cone shaped flowers in white or pink while others such as the oak leaved hydrangea have interesting leaf shapes and good autumn colour.
Hydrangeas thrive in a moist but well drained soil in a cool semi-shaded part of the garden. Blue hydrangeas require an acid soil or ericaceous compost otherwise the colour will fade to a murky pink. Before planting work plenty of organic matter into the soil and after planting and in subsequent years apply more organic matter as a mulch. This could be well rotted manure, leaf mould, garden compost or composted bark. Hydrangeas also benefit from a feed such as blood, fish and bone or a rose fertiliser each spring.
Flower heads on the mopheads and lacecaps are best left on the plants over winter to help protect the buds below and then removed with about 6 inches (15cm) of stem in the spring. If shrubs have outgrown their positions they can be pruned hard in spring but this will result in few flowers until the following year. The hydrangea paniculata cultivars require hard pruning each spring in order to encourage them to flower well. In addition to the shrubby hydrangeas there are also some climbing hydrangeas, one of which is evergreen, which do particularly well on north facing walls or fences where other climbers struggle to perform well.
Hydrangeas in all of their forms are therefore excellent garden plants and thoroughly deserve their popularity amongst gardeners.