The mopheads and lacecaps are the workhorses of many summer flower gardens.
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Plant type: deciduous shrub
Hardiness: USDA Zones 6 to 9
Bigleaf hydrangeas, a common shrub in the Southeast, are divided into two classes--the mopheads and the lacecaps. There are hundreds of cultivars in each group. Both shrubs flower in the summer, timing dependent on the type and cultivar, and there's considerable variation in flowers. As its name suggests, these hydrangeas have large leaves, giving it a coarse texture in summer. In the winter, the unbranched, vertical stems give the shrub a hopelessly coarse look.
The flower color of some of these hydrangeas depend on the pH of the soil (and, more directly, on how much aluminum is available in the soil). Although there are many exceptions, a pH of 5.0 to 5.5 will result in blue flowers and a pH of above 6 may mean pink flowers.
Cultivation: Bigleaf hydrangeas need moist, well-drained organic soil. Give it full sun to part shade; in the South, shade is essential. Mulch is helpful to help retain soil moisture. Do any pruning immediately after flowering; this shrub flowers on the previous season's growth (there are some exceptions among the cultivars).
How to use it: Place hydrangeas in the shrub border where its summer flower show can be appreciated and its less-than-great winter form recedes into the background.
Selected mophead cultivars:
Selected lacecap cultivars:
These six unusual plants can add an international flair to your garden.