Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

A Floridata Plant Profile 180 Hydrangea macrophylla

Common Names: French hydrangea, bigleaf hydrangea Family: Hydrangeaceae (hydrangea Family)
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blue French hydrangea
This hydrangea is growing in acidic soil as indicated by it's blue color.
blue French hydrangea
As the flowers open the color changes from white to blue (in acid soils), in basic soils the white turns to pink and in neutral soils (pH7) the flowers stay white!


Hydrangea is a rounded shrub with huge, deciduous, opposite, serrated, medium to dark green leaves. It is usually seen at 3-6 ft (0.9-1.8 m) with an equal spread, but older specimens can exceed 8 ft (2.4 m)! Flowers are arranged in huge, ball shaped clusters on the most common varieties. There are many selected varieties (and many hybrids), the most striking of which is a variegated-leaf form that bears flat, or lace-capped inflorescences. Flowers on most hydrangeas are pH-sensitive, with dark purple or blue flowers in acidic soil, white or dull green in neutral earth, and pink in alkaline soil.

Hydrangeas make beautiful foliage in warm months. Flowering is best in areas with mild winters, since the plant blooms on previous year’s growth. French hydrangea may be evergreen in very mild winter areas. In its northernmost range, hydrangea is a foliage shrub, since flower buds are killed in hard winters.


Though we commonly call it French hydrangea, Hydrangea macrophylla is native to Japan and Korea. This shrub can naturalize in compatible climates.


Likes loose, rich, moist but well drained soil. In northern range, prefers full sun. In hot summers, blooms fine in sun or part shade, but appearance is best in afternoon shade, since hot sun makes the plant wilt, whether or not it has been watered. Prune off flowers as soon as they begin to fade, since plant sets new buds soon after blooming. Light: Partial shade to sun. Moisture: Moist, well drained soil. Hardiness: USDA Zones 6 - 10. Propagation: By cuttings, which are very easy to root.
lace-cap hydrangea
A hedge of lace-cap hydrangeas blooms in a Tallahassee, Florida neighborhood at mid-May.
French hydrangea
This French hydrangea thrives (and blooms!) in the shade beneath a trio of China firs (Cunninghamia lanceolata).


In climates where hydrangea flowers, place in a mixed shrub border or at the back of a flower bed. Its rich foliage and large size make it a wonderful background for white or light colored flowers, even tall growing perennials and annuals. In warm climates French hydrangea is perfect for adding a splash of springtime color to shady areas and woodland gardens. As a specimen, it can be fabulous, and the larger the more so. Minimal pruning is recommended for most prolific flowering. Flowers are easily air dried and are long lasting. They may be spray painted for color or left in their natural state and treated with hair spray to stiffen and preserve.


This easy to grow and readily available shrub boasts large, dark, luxuriant foliage with round ball shaped or lace-capped flowers. Hydrangeas have long been garden favorites.

Steve Christman 6/13/97; updated 12/5/99, 5/26/01, 2/12/04, 5/27/07, 6/18/16

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Hydrangea species profiled on Floridata:

Hydrangea macrophylla

( French hydrangea, bigleaf hydrangea )

Hydrangea paniculata

( peegee hydrangea, panicle hydrangea )

Hydrangea quercifolia

( oakleaf hydrangea )

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