fresh flower


These trendy flowers are favorites of both florists and consumers.

by Steven W. Brown, AIFD

Hydrangea macrophylla
Garden hortensia, Garden Hydrangea, Mophead Hydrangea
Photo courtesy of California Cut Flower Commission

1. big heads. Pronounced “hy-DRAN-jee-a,” these blooms are popular for their large, showy flower heads, comprising dense clusters of small petal-like sepals. As cut flowers, the heads are most often rounded (H. macrophylla, commonly known as garden hortensias, garden Hydrangeas, mophead Hydrangeas and lacecap Hydrangeas), but they also can be pyramidal in shape (H. paniculata, commonly known as panicle or peegee Hydrangeas).

2. a new family. These shrubs have been long classified in the Saxifragaceae (saxifrage) family; however, in recent years, they have been reclassified into the newer Hydrangeaceae family. A close relative is mock orange (Philadelphus). Hydrangeas are native to the temperate regions of North and South America as well as eastern Asia, including Japan.

3. for the love of water. Hydrangea comes from the Greek roots “hydr/hydro/hydra” (water) and “angos” (jar or vessel). The name refers to the seed capsules of the plant, which the Ancient Greeks thought resembled cups, and to the plant’s requirement of lots of water.

4. like a chameleon. Hydrangeas are available in whites, pinks, lilacs, blues, greens and even browns. Some Hydrangea flower colors are determined by the acidity or alkalinity of the soil: blue if grown in acidic soil and pink if grown in alkaline soil. White Hydrangeas are not changed by soil type. Many new varieties are genetically engineered to achieve specific colors and also cannot be changed by soil. Additionally, growers use absorption dyes to alter Hydrangea colors.

5. an endless season. Formerly available only in late spring and summer, Hydrangeas are now a year-round cut-flower crop from both domestic and foreign growers. Peak season, however, is March through October.

6. care is key. Unpack flowers immediately on arrival in your store, and remove bindings and sleeves. Remove any foliage that would fall below the water line, then cut at least 1 inch off each stem at an angle with a sharp knife or pruner (do not crush or smash the stems). Immediately dip or place the stems into a hydrating solution, then into a clean container with properly proportioned flower-food solution. Next, place the flowers into a floral cooler, at 34 F to 36 F, to hydrate for at least two hours before designing with or selling them.

7. the essence of H20. Hydrangeas are heavy drinkers, so check the water level daily, and change the water and and and and and and and and recut the stems every other day. Frequent misting is beneficial for flowers at room temperature. Antitranspirant sprays also will assist in extending the lasting quality of Hydrangeas. Pinch off florets as they fade.

8. ethyl's influence. Hydrangeas may exhibit flower shattering when exposed to ethylene gas. Check with your supplier to confirm that an ethylene inhibitor is applied at the grower level or during transportation.

9. life and afterlife. Depending on care and variety, cut Hydrangeas can last for seven to 10 days, and, typically, they last best in vase arrangements. In many cases, Hydrangea flower heads will dry naturally, and the florets are ideal for pressing.

10. medicinal values. Hydrangeas contain the compound hydrangin, which is used in sunscreens, insecticides, parasiticides and more, and derivatives are used to treat liver, kidney and gallbladder disorders. Caution: If large amounts of Hydrangea bark, leaves or flowers are ingested, nausea may occur.

information from:
Bay City Flower Company; Half Moon Bay, Calif.;
David Repetto; A. Repetto Nursery Inc.; Half Moon Bay, Calif.
The Royal Horticulture Society;

Steven W. Brown, AIFD, is a professor and department chair of horticulture and floristry at City College of San Francisco with 29 years of consulting and educational experience in the floral industry. You may contact him by e-mail at or by phone at (415) 239-3140.

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