Hydrangea revolution: the colour-changing plant of 2018
Hydrangeas rocketed in popularity in 2018, thanks to a flood of new varieties hitting the garden centres and the RHS Chelsea Plant of the Year being named as Hydrangea Runaway Bride Snow White.
Far from the staid, front garden shrubs typical of the 1970s, the new breed of hydrangeas is just at home in pots or in a mixed border.
I wasn’t a fan until I’d visited Madeira and saw hydrangeas nestling cheek by jowl with agapanthus, palms, bird of paradise flowers – unusual combos that really worked.
There were roadsides up in the mountains, covered with wild garden escapees, looking utterly gorgeous.
I hightailed it to my local garden centre along with my father-in-law, where I bought the lacecap Zorro and he plumped for Deep Purple Dance.
Oddly, mophead and lacecap cultivars of H. macrophylla (and H. involucrata and H. serrata) can change colour, due to the soil pH which affects the amount of trace element aluminium the plant can absorb.
Those with blue or pink flowers tend to be blue in acid soil (high aluminium levels), mauve in acid to neutral soil, and pink in alkaline conditions. To get the flower colour you want, choose cultivars that give the best colours for your soil; pH in question.
White and green-flowered cultivars don’t share this quirk.
Recommended varieties: Magical Hydrangeas
Capitalising on H. macrophylla’s tendency to colour change, the Magical Hydrangea Four Seasons series is a real head-turner.
The heavy flower heads change colour at least three or four times a year, to provide a display that can last for six months, from May to November, in a shady, moderately warm spot.
Despite their glamour, they’re very easy to care for, so are ideal for beginners, are compact and look good in pots for patios, balconies, terraces or borders.
Available in 3.5, 5 and 10-litre pots, the Magical Hydrangea is grown exclusively in the UK by Wyevale Nurseries in Hereford.
There are eight varieties to choose from, including the Plantarium 2015 Best in Show winner and silver award winner at the HTA National Plant Show 2016, Magical Ruby Tuesday.
- Hydrangea macrophylla Magical Revolution Pink: the flowers start apple green, changing to pale pink, then dark pink and finish the season green with dark red edges
- Hydrangea macrophylla Magical Revolution Blue
- Hydrangea macrophylla Magical Amethyst Blue
- Hydrangea macrophylla Magical Amethyst Pink
- Hydrangea macrophylla Magical Coral Blue
- Hydrangea macrophylla Magical Coral Pink
- Hydrangea macrophylla Magical Noblesse
- Hydrangea macrophylla Magical Ruby Tuesday
To find your nearest garden centre or retailer who stocks the Magical Hydrangea, including Homebase, Dobbies and Wyevale, visit www.magicalfourseasons.com.
Potted guide: hydrangeas
- Shrubs thrive in a moist, well-drained soil, in a cool, semi-shady spot. Avoid exposed east-facing sites, or dry, sunny areas.
- Work plenty of organic matter into the soil before planting and after planting and apply well-rotted manure, leafmould, bark or compost each spring as a mulch.
- Feed annually in late winter or spring. Too much feeding can encourage soft, leafy growth, with plants less likely to develop flower buds.
- Prune climbing hydrangeas (H. anomala subsp. petiolaris, H. seemanii) after flowering – cut off spent flower heads and trim unwanted shoots back to healthy buds.
- Prune shrubby hydrangeas (H. macrophylla, H. paniculata and H. quercifolia) in early spring if necessary.
- Use rainwater to water hydrangeas, since tap water can affect the flower colour.
- Keep blue flowers the right shade by growing in acidic soil (pH 4.5-5), or by adding a ‘blueing compound’, which contains aluminium sulphate. If the soil is very alkaline, it will not work.
- To enhance red or pink flowers, apply a dressing of ground limestone or chalk in winter.