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What is a Hortensia?

By O. Parker
Updated May 16, 2024
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Hortensia is a woody flowering shrub that produces large clusters of pom-pom-shaped flowers in the spring and summer months. Hortensia is the common name for Hydrangea macrophylla; it also is called big leaf hydrangea, French hydrangea and florist’s hydrangea. This variety is one of 23 species within the hydrangea family. Native to Japan, hortensia is widely cultivated in Europe and North America.

This plant is one of the varieties of hydrangea with flowers that change color from blue to pink. The color change is the direct result of potenz hydrogen (pH) levels in the soil. If the soil is acidic with a pH of 5.5 of lower, the flowers turn blue; if the soil is alkaline with a pH of 5.6 or higher, the flowers turn pink.

The specific mineral in the soil that affects the pH levels and the color changing properties of hortensia is aluminum. The shade of the blue or pink colors intensifies as the pH level is raised or lowered. The common blue varieties of this plant can be manipulated to turn pink, and some varieties are white and do not change color.

Hortensia requires a mild climate to survive and flourish. Unlike most hydrangeas, hortensia grows particularly well in coastal and maritime climates. Hortensia produces the best flowers when it is planted in full sun, but the plant will grow well in partial shade. Hortensia can be planted in a row to create a rich hedge or border for a garden or yard, or it can be used as an accent among other shrubbery.

This plant grows 3 to 6 feet (about 1 to 2 m) tall with foliage spread reaching 3 to 6 feet (about 1 to 2 m) in diameter. The tall, upright stems grow directly out of the ground and do not branch out before flowering. During particularly cold winters, the stalks of hortensia are likely to die back completely, but they will reemerge in the spring. If a cold snap threatens, a thick layer of mulch should be spread over the crowns to protect them from damage.

Hortensia requires moderate care and nutrients. It should be fertilize in the spring as the plant is coming out of dormancy with a balanced flower fertilizer. In hot, dry weather, the area should be watered thoroughly once a week. In late winter, before the plant begins to produce new growth, wood that is older than three years should be cut to the ground.

Flowers should be left on the bush until they begin to dry. After they take on a papery quality, the flower stalks should be cut to the ground. The flowers can be used for dried arraignments.

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