Japanese Hydrangeas By Rick Schoellhorn

This new group of hybrids offers different flower types and foliage color.

Hydrangeas form an integral part of the spring holidays.Many growers produce and are familiar with the common Hydrangea macrophyllahybrids, and some are also producing lace cap types for spring sales. However,there is a newer group of hybrids that have received little attention; thoseare the hybrids of H. macrophylla and H. serrata. These newer forms offerdifferent flower types and some foliage color options as well.

My experiences with the newer hybrids began back in 1998when my family reunion was held in Colorado. I went to the grocery store to buyflowers for our condominium and discovered a series of lace cap hydrangeas witha totally different flower form that I had never seen before. I have since seenthese hybrids in all shades of white, blue, mauve and pink. The impact of thesehybrids was so strong I packed the plants into my suitcase and brought themback to Florida as mementos, they are still living, though the colors havechanged with their establishment in the Florida landscape.

I made a similar discovery this past year during the holidayseason; I was searching for something other than a poinsettia to put around mytree. (Not that I have anything against poinsettias mind you, but it is just so”red” everywhere at that time of year.) Anyway . . . I was lookingfor a break from tradition when I stumbled into my local grocery store for aholiday beverage and discovered some of the new Japanese hydrangea hybrids ondisplay. Numerous thoughts crossed my mind including: “Is this a hydrangeaor a Clerodendrum? — how have I missed this development in breeding? — I’mtaking all of them,” and finally, “Is it red or white wine that goeswith pork?”

In the end, I did take every last one of the plants ondisplay, paid $19 a pop for the privilege and mixed them with ‘Carousel’poinsettias in front of a picture window. It was the closest thing to a classystatement I made in all of last year. So, though this article is abouthydrangeas , you really need to consider growing them as a winter crop as wellas Carousel and ‘Cortez Burgundy’ next year.

In both cases mentioned above,the hydrangeas I found came from a nursery called Hana BayFlowers marketed through Bay City Flower Co. in Half Moon Bay, Calif. I washoping to get a chance to visit Bay City on my Pack Trial trip butunfortunately couldn’t get there during business hours. Bay City offers bothfinished and pre-finished hydrangeas.

Japanese releases

These Japanese releases will change the way you view thiscrop, as they do not look like the old-fashioned, pompom forms, and while thefoliage is similar, the newer lace cap hybrids and star-shaped flowered formsare very unique. The effect is more graceful and more of a novelty than thestandard flowering forms. There is also a lot of color bending in the newcultivars, with more red tones and red tones blended into the traditionalwhite, pink and blue we think of when we think of florist hydrangeas. Thereason I wanted to raise awareness of these hybrids is two fold. First, as withmany flowering potted plants, hydrangeas have gotten locked into theEaster/Mother’s Day market and deserve more attention throughout the year.Secondly, the new cultivars offer retailers and wholesalers a great opportunityin novelty flowering crops with a higher profit margin.

Recently, I met Tim Wood of Spring Meadow Nursery, and welooked over his catalog of hydrangea cultivars, which are predominantly for thelandscape industry. The selection of new forms is amazing. Tim had a short listof these new varieties for growers to experiment with that include Hydrangeamacrophylla and Hydrangea serrata cultivars. While some taxonomists merge thesetwo species, they can still be found separated in the trade. So don’t besurprised to see them listed separately in catalogs. Also the original Japanesenames are often converted into American names in the United States, so you mayfind some cultivars offered under different names. This practice is common whennew crops enter our market and are released.

Hydrangea serrata

‘Kiyosumi’. White flowered, lace cap form with some red around marginsof florets. The new vegetative growth has a deep red flush, adding anotherlayer to the interest of the plant.

‘Midoriboshi-Temari’. This is a pink lace cap form, but the outer doubleflorets have very long pedicels, so they hang elegantly downwards. This is thegrowth Á form I find so interesting and distinctively different from thehydrangeas we have become accustomed to.

‘Miyama yea Muraski’. Double violet to pink florets on bright greenfoliage. This plant bends the colors we are used to in hydrangeas and also hasan excellent form.

‘Shirofuji’. Double white masses of florets cover theplants. A very nice, low, mounding habit when planted in the landscape.

Hydrangea macrophylla

‘Izu No Hana’. Lace cap type with double pink sterile florets and roundedpetals surrounding the central “lace cap.” Hard not to think offireworks when you see this plant, as the florets point outward and create theillusion of an expanding flower mass.

‘Jogasaki’. Similar to Izu No Hana, but the color is a bit moresilvery, and florets have slightly fewer petals — between eight and 11 perfloret. Flowers face up a bit more and create a different effect than that ofIzu No Hana.

Author’s Note: There are somewhere around six major generaof hydrangeas used in the United States. Some are suited for pot culture andothers are not. I know there are many other suppliers of finished andpre-finished hydrangeas. I would like to include those in a sidebar next month,so please E-mail me if you would like to be listed. Include in your E-mailcontact information and a listing of the cultivars you supply.

Rick Schoellhorn

Rick Schoellhorn is associate professor of floriculture at the University of Florida. He can be reached by phone at (352) 392-1831 or E-mail at [email protected]

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