In memory of our friend and contributing garden writer, Sandi Manna, who would want us to make our gardens as beautiful as they can be.

One of the most popular shrubs in the garden, hydrangeas come in all types, colors, shapes and sizes. In fact, there are six different varieties – Bigleaf (Mophead and Lacecap), Smooth, Mountain, Panicle, Oakleaf, and Climbing – oh my! All offer large, beautiful blooms on easy to maintain plants, so it’s no wonder they’re so popular.  Plus, each type has different growing habits, bloom colors and leaf textures. 

So, how do you know which type is right for your garden or yard?  First, you need to start with the conditions of the landscape. What are the sun, shade and moisture levels where you plan to plant the hydrangea? 

In this 3 Part Series, I’ll explore all the varieties of hydrangeas to help you choose the right one.  Below, Part 1 covers the two main flower types of Bigleaf Hydrangeas – Mophead and Lacecap.

Mophead (Hydrangea Macrophylla) 

Mophead hydrangeas, also sometimes called Bigleaf, grow in full sun to part shade. They come in shades of blue, purple or red. There are a number of reblooming hydrangeas that will give you color all season. They start blooming in early summer and bloom just about through frost. These shrubs do best in moist, well-drained soil. 

As long as they get a minimum of  1” of water once a week (twice a week when it’s hot) you should be fine. Cutting faded blooms will encourage the shrub to keep producing flowers. For most of the shrubs in these series, soil pH will affect color. If you’re like most and you want blue, then you’re in luck. To get blue hydrangeas you need acidic soil (Connecticut is typically acidic). If your blooms aren’t blue enough, or you’re looking for pink, there are various soil amendments that will do the trick. 

My Favorite Varieties: 

Hydrangea Macrophylla ‘Endless Summer’ bears mophead clusters of pink or blue flowers (pH dependent) and grows 5 feet tall. Prefers mostly sun. (Above, Image Courtesy of Prides Corner Farms) If you’re looking for a slightly smaller variety try Hydrangea Macrophylla ‘Onyx Peacock’. Large, prolific pink, blue or purple flowers (pH dependent) are born on sturdy black stems. Yes, you read correctly. Black stems! Blooms on old and new wood so you don’t have to worry about pruning. This is a standout hydrangea that will have your friends talking! Prefers mostly sun. 4′ tall 1.5′-2′ wide. (Right, Image Courtesy of Concept Plants)
Looking for massive flowers? Look no further than Hydrangea Macrophylla ‘Let’s Dance Big Easy.’ Big Easy will provide garden thrills with incredibly large, mophead style blooms. How large? Some could measure in excess of 9”-10” wide. Easily the largest flower of any mophead blooming type. (Right, Image Courtesy of Great Garden Plants) Big Easy is a strong bloomer and a rebloomer offering it’s massive flowers on both old and new wood, again taking the effort out of pruning. Like all the rest of the mopheads here, bloom color is pH dependent. Acidic for blue, alkaline for pink. Prefers mostly sun. 2′-3′ tall and wide. 
Hydrangea Macrophylla ‘Blushing Bride’ is a gorgeous hydrangea that bears pure white blooms that take on a charming light pink or blue blush that provides great contrast with the newly emerging white flowers. 3-4′ Tall and Wide. Prefers mostly sun to part shade. (Left, Image Courtesy of Baucom’s Nursery)   The flowers of Hydrangea Macrophylla ‘Let’s Dance Rythmic Blue’ are truly amazing. The most vibrant blue hydrangea on the market, the blooms are held on sturdy stems and have full rich color blue or pink hues (pH dependent). Compact habit and good wilt-resistance, this hydrangea grows 2-3′ tall and 3′-4′ wide. Mostly sun to part shade. (Below, Image Courtesy of Great Garden Plants)

Lacecap (Hydrangea Macrophylla)

You’ll notice that Lacecap hydrangeas also belong to the species Hydrangea Macrophylla. The primary difference between a lacecap and a mophead is the flowers. Mopheads have large, round pom-pom like flowers. Lacecaps have tight, compact buds in the center of the flower surrounded by larger, showier petals along the outside. This look gives them their lace-like appearance – leading to the name “Lacecap.” 

My Favorite Varieties: 

Hydrangea Macrophylla ‘Double Delights Wedding Gown’ is simply stunning. Deep green foliage and pure-white lacecap flowers that bloom earlier than almost any other macrophylla type Hydrangea. These flowers continue profusely until October. Unlike most macrophyllas, this stunner prefers shady spots. Like many newer varieties, Double Delights Wedding Gown blooms on old and new wood, so it takes the guesswork out of pruning. Prefers partial to mostly shade. 3-4′ tall, 4-5′ wide.  (Below, Image Courtesy of Monrovia)
Another stand-out is Hydrangea Macrophylla ‘Lady in Red.’  Large, heavily toothed foliage emerges in spring with deep red veins. Deep red stems create a great contrast to deep green foliage. 3”-4” lacecap flowers emerge in summer. Pale pink or blue (pH dependent) flowers emerge and then mature to a lush burgundy rose. During the fall the leaves change to a rich purple. Prefers part shade. 3′-4′ tall and wide.  (Right, Image Courtesy of Greenbox Farms)
If you love unique plants, look no further than Hydrangea Macrophylla ‘Light of Day.’ This highly variegated hydrangea will pop amongst other green foliage. Large lacecap flowers emerge a stunning blue or pink (pH dependent) against the bi-color foliage backdrop. Prefers Partial Shade. 3′-4′ Tall and Wide.  (Left, Image Courtesy Prides Corner Farms)   Another stunner is Hydrangea Macrophylla ‘Abracadabra Star.’ This hydrangea features a stunning lacecap flower in July with large flowers that start off blue (pH dependent) and white before maturing to a rich blue. Velvety black stems are sturdy to hold up these distinctive flowers. Prefers full to part sun. 3-4′ Tall, 4-5′ Wide (Below, Image Courtesy of Proven Winners)