By Nita Robertson, AIFD

Hydrangea, with voluminous blooms, a range of bloom types and a broad color palette, have long been cherished by florists for their versatility as mass flowers that add texture, stunning color and modern elegance to any design. With year-round availability, these stunning flowers are highly favored, especially for weddings and events, by not only floral designers but also their customers.

passiflora design studio, model Britton Allen, photo by Jenny Haas
Passiflora Design Studio, photo by Jenny Haas, model Britton Allen

The genus Hydrangea belongs to the relatively small Hydrangeaceae family, which also comprises the genera Deutzia and Philadelphus (mock orange), and is native to China, Japan, Korea, the Himalayas, Indonesia and the U.S. (from New England west to Kansas and all the states south of that line). The first known Hydrangea species, H. macrophylla (big-leaf Hydrangea), was brought to Europe from Japan in the early 18th century. It quickly gained popularity for its large, showy blooms and ability to thrive in European climates. As the plants became more widely cultivated in Europe, horticulturists began developing new varieties.

In Japan, Hydrangea plants have been cultivated for centuries and hold cultural significance. They are associated with gratitude, understanding and apology. The flower’s changing colors are often seen as symbolic of change and transformation.

Today, Hydrangea is grown worldwide, and the numerous species and varieties provide florists with a range of flower shapes, sizes and colors. Ongoing research continues to explore new cultivars and ways to enhance the growth, resilience, and aesthetic appeal of these plants.

blue hydrangea
Flores del Este

The Hydrangea genus comprises 70 to 80 species of flowering plants. The most commonly cultivated species as cut flowers include the following:

Hydrangea macrophylla

     Common names: big-leaf Hydrangea, French Hydrangea, garden Hydrangea, florist’s Hydrangea

This species has two main bloom types: mophead (a.k.a. hortensia), and lacecap. Mophead/hortensia blooms (called inflorescences) are large, full and round, and they are composed primarily of the large, showy sterile florets. They may bear smaller fertile florets (most noticeable in lacecap blooms), but those are obscured by the more numerous and densely packed sterile florets, resulting in a spherical shape. Lacecap blooms have a flat, loosely packed composition of smaller, pollen-bearing fertile florets surrounded by an outer ring of the larger showy sterile florets. They appear light and airy.

Hydrangea paniculata

     Common name: panicle Hydrangea

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Grandiflora’

     Common name: peegee Hydrangea

Recognized for its conical flower clusters, H. paniculata is prized for its hardiness and ability to thrive in various climates. It often undergoes color changes, starting with white and turning pink or even red as the season progresses.

Hydrangea quercifolia

     Common name: oak-leaf Hydrangea

Named for its distinctive oak-leaf-shaped leaves, this species also offers cone-shaped inflorescences, as well as attractive foliage that turns vibrant colors in the fall.

Hydrangea arborescens

     Common names: smooth Hydrangea, wild Hydrangea, sevenbark, hills-of-snow

Featuring large round blooms, similar to H. macrophylla, this species is valued for its hardiness and adaptability.

For gardeners, we must mention another species, Hydrangea serrata (formerly known as Hydrangea macrophylla subsp. serrata). It sports lacecap-like blooms and goes by the common names mountain Hydrangea, tea-of-heaven and sawtooth Hydrangea.

One of the most fascinating aspects of Hydrangea blooms is their ability to change color based on soil pH. Acidic soils tend to produce blue flowers while alkaline soils result in pink flowers. White varieties remain white regardless of soil pH.

Hydrangea lives up to the root of its botanical name, “hydra” (Greek for water), by requiring ample water. Some flower care experts recommend submerging cut flowers in room-temperature water for 30 to 45 minutes immediately after cutting, to prevent wilting, as well as to revive wilted blooms.

One commercial treatment solution, FloraLife® Hydrate Hydrangea, is specifically formulated to hydrate and condition Hydrangea after harvest and/or after a period of dry storage. It increases flower quality throughout the supply chain, resulting in better vase life performance at the consumer level. Floralife® Hydrate Hydrangea is explicitly formulated to enhance the flow of liquid through Hydrangea stems, to provide long-lasting hydration and prevent premature wilting.

Hydrangea Farm Story: Cultivating Color and Connection

hydrangea field
Flores del Este

Nestled amid the lush landscapes of La Ceja, Colombia, about 40 miles southeast of Medellín, lies Flores del Este, a haven where the vibrant hues of Hydrangea paint a picture of natural beauty at 7,200 feet above sea level. For 24 years, this farm has woven a tale of growth, passion and family bonds, emerging as a beacon of excellence in the global export of these delicate blooms.

At Flores del Este, the spectrum of colors is as diverse as the Colombian rainforest. Varieties range from pristine whites and deep blues to verdant greens and captivating purples, each untouched by chemical dyes.

“The color in most demand is white “ shares Catalina Arango, commercial director of Flores del Este. Embracing a commitment to sustainability, the farm proudly boasts Rainforest Alliance and Florverde Sustainable Flowers certifications. Today, Flores del Este is a reference company in the export of Hydrangea, producing and shipping more than 5 million stems annually.

“We currently sell our cut Hydrangea to 22 countries around the world,” Arango elaborates. “The first destination was Miami, followed by New York, Texas, Illinois and California. Now, in addition to North America, we sell to countries in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, as well as through new channels like Amazon.”

purple hydrangea field
Flores del Este

All the expertise Flores del Este possesses in Hydrangea production has been acquired through hands-on experience and trial-and-error. “When we embarked on this journey 24 years ago, there was virtually no knowledge about growing Hydrangea in Colombia,” Arango says. “It was completely uncharted territory. My brother, Andres Arango, the general manager at Flores del Este, pioneered the development of a technological package and accumulated knowledge about Hydrangea production. Years ago, Hydrangea didn’t even have a specific classification number in the flower export tariffs; they were simply categorized as ‘other flowers.’ Today, these flowers have a classification number and rank as the fifth most important product in Colombian agriculture.”

With 23 hectares (57 acres) under cultivation, Flores del Este stands as a testament to the Arango family’s unwavering perseverance and commitment to quality and consistency. However, the path to their success has not been without its challenges. The tropical climate of Colombia poses its own set of hurdles, with pests and diseases threatening the delicate balance of nature.

Hydrangea is grown outdoors in Colombia,” Arango explains, “and the plants and their blooms are susceptible to the country’s tropical climate. Cultivation can be a challenge because, in the summer months, there may be difficulties with pests, such as mites, and ‘burns,’ and during the winter months, there can be ‘attack’ diseases like Botrytis, a pathogenic necrotrophic fungus also known as gray mold. We also suffer hail storms throughout the year. Another challenge is the labor force, with workers becoming more and more difficult to obtain because young people do not want to work in the fields,” she concludes.

Flores del Este

Hydrangea Problems and Solutions

Courtesy of FloraLife

Problem: Ethylene sensitivity

Solution: There are no published reports that cut Hydrangea is sensitive to ethylene; however, there are reports of prolonged exposure to ethylene causing shattering in potted Hydrangea. Be sure your cut Hydrangea is shipped with EthylBloc ethylene inhibitor, and maintain cold chain during shipping to minimize potential ethylene damage.

Problem: Botrytis

Solution: Temperature fluctuations during shipping can cause condensation on sleeves, which can promote pathogen growth. Make sure your cut Hydrangea is wrapped with Floralife® Transport Paper during shipping.

Problem: Prone to physical damage

Solution: The peduncles (stalks supporting the bracts) can be broken easily, and physical damage to the white bracts is very evident as brown lines. Therefore, Hydrangea must be harvested before the bracts (petals) are fully expanded. Make sure your cut Hydrangea bunches are not too tightly packed inside the shipping boxes and that the bunches are securely strapped inside boxes so they don’t move during shipping.

Problem: Extremely thirsty

Solution: Hydrangea loses a lot of water via transpiration from the leaves, especially at room temperatures or warmer. Hydrangea responds very well to flower nutrient solutions. Place freshly cut stems immediately into a hydration solution specifically formulated for Hydrangea, such as FloraLife® Hydrate Hydrangea. Use a holding solution, such as FloraLife® Express 200, in containers when storing these flowers, and then use a consumer flower nutrient solution, like Express® Universal 300, in containers when arranging these flowers. To keep Hydrangea hydrated, it is extremely important that the cold chain be maintained throughout the distribution channels, strict cleaning protocols be adhered to. Store Hydrangea in a floral cooler at 34 F to 38 F (1 C to 3 C).

Need to Know: Hydrangea Helpful Hints

Properly Mixed Flower Nutrient Solution

• Helps bracts to fully expand (grow and open)

• Helps Hydrangea stay hydrated and helps prevent wilting

• Increases vase life

• Intensifies color

Packed with Care

Hydrangea blooms are prone to wilting. To prevent excessive dehydration during “dry” shipment, stems are usually individually sleeved and have water bags wrapped around the stem ends.

Hydrangea stems are typically harvested when bracts are only partially expanded, to reduce shipping volume and physical damage.

• Stems are often strapped inside shipping boxes, to prevent shifting or movement that can cause physical damage during transport.


• Flower opening speed is slow, especially when Hydrangea is stored in a floral cooler. Furthermore, even at room temperatures in storage containers and vase arrangements, it may take several days for bracts that are harvested at the correct stage to fully open.

• With proper care throughout the entire supply chain, from the farms to the flower shops, Hydrangea can provide consumers with a vase life of seven to 10 days.

Hydrangea can be mixed with other flowers in storage buckets and arrangements without harmful effects.

• Make sure that Hydrangea stems are well hydrated before using them in designs

Hydrangea can be arranged in floral foam, but their performance is often not as good as in vase arrangements. In either case, check the nutrient solution level often because Hydrangea consumes lots of water/solution.

• Always use a finishing spray on Hydrangea in finished designs, such as FloraLife® Clear Crowning Glory®, for designs with no (or a limited) source of water (e.g., hand-tied bouquets, corsages, boutonnières, headpieces, etc.), and FloraLife® Finishing Touch, for flowers in designs with water sources. This will provide an additional layer of protection against dehydration and wilting.

• Always employ the FIFO (First In, First Out) inventory rotation method.

Hydrangea can be held for up to one week in dry storage if kept in a floral cooler at 34 F to 38 F and if the stem ends are in water bags.

Hydrangea generally is not fragrant.

• Natural, stem dyed or “airbrushed,” Hydrangea will perform the same.