Hydrangea Name Meaning and Symbolism (Hortensia)

Hydrangeas are one of the most popular flowering shrubs, up there with Azaleas and Rhododendrons for seas of gorgeous flowers.

These fabulous plants come from the Americas and Asia, with the biggest range of species coming from China, Japan, and Korea. 

No matter if you’ve decided on a modern garden scheme or a more traditional one, hydrangeas are versatile plants which work in any planting scheme.

At A Glance: What You Should Know About Hydrangeas

These shrubs, trees, and climbers are instantly recognizable for their huge clusters of flower heads, arranged in domes, flat clusters, or peaks, which can change color depending on the pH of the soil.

This is also dictated by the cultivar, as some species stay one solid color. In those that do change, this is determined by the presence of aluminum ions in the soil, which the hydrangeas absorb.

Soil with a pH under 6.0 will turn the flowers purple or blue, having a bigger concentration of aluminum. A pH above 7.0 will result in red or pink flowers, where there’s not enough aluminum for the roots to absorb. 

Many flower heads are actually made up of bracts, and the true flowers may form underneath, or the ends of stems.

The same plant can have multiple colors, if the soil has a concentration of aluminum in some areas but not others, making for a striking display.

Behind The Name: What Does Hydrangea Mean?

The name hydrangea is Greek, and translates to water vessel, referring to the shape of the seed pods. 

The older name, Hortensia, honors Nicole-Reine Hortense Lepaute, the French astronomer and mathematician, who was known for her work in helping to predict when Halley’s Comet would return, among other achievements.

An asteroid and a lunar crater have also been named after her.

Hydrangea Meaning And Symbolism

Hydrangeas typically express honesty, which is why they’re often gifted as part of an arrangement to express a confession or hidden feelings, with other flowers that have deep symbolism attached to them.

They also represent vanity, enduring love, and being grateful. To others, hydrangeas are reserved for funerals, so make sure you don’t get your sentiments mixed up!

For more on hydrangea symbolism, head over to our Hydrangea Flower Meaning And Symbolism page.

Hydrangea Growing Guide

Hydrangeas thrive in USDA zones 3 through to 9, and bloom from spring all the way through to fall, for as long as the weather allows.

The plant can reach between 2 and 40 feet high, depending on the species you pick.

There are some dwarf types which are perfect for containers, if you don’t have a lot of room, too.

Hydrangeas can survive in partial or full sunlight, but they need moist, well-draining soil (see also Hydrangea Diseases To Watch Out For).

For such dramatic displays, these plants don’t need a lot of attention. For best results, leave all the flower heads on when it gets to fall, and this will help protect the new growth against frost.

They look perfect in the middle or at the back of a border, where these plants can inject height and color into any garden.

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