AskDefine | Define hydrangea

Dictionary Definition

hydrangea n : any of various deciduous or evergreen shrubs of the genus Hydrangea

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. Any of several shrubs, of the genus Hydrangea, having large clusters of white, pink or blue flowers


Extensive Definition

Hydrangea (, common names Hydrangea and Hortensia) is a genus of about 70-75 species of flowering plants native to southern and eastern Asia (from Japan to China, the Himalaya and Indonesia) and North and South America. The flowers are extremely common in the Azores Islands of Portugal, particularly on Faial Island, which is known as the "blue island" due to the vast number of hydrangeas present on the island. By far the greatest species diversity is in eastern Asia, notably China and Japan. Most are shrubs 1-3 m tall, but some are small trees, and others lianas reaching up to 30 m by climbing up trees. They can be either deciduous or evergreen, though the widely cultivated temperate species are all deciduous.
Hydrangea flowers are produced from early spring to late autumn; they grow in flowerheads (corymbs or panicles) at the ends of the stems. In many species, the flowerheads contain two types of flowers, small fertile flowers in the middle of the flowerhead, and large, sterile bract-like flowers in a ring around the edge of each flowerhead. Other species have all the flowers fertile and of the same size.
In most species the flowers are white, but in some species (notably H. macrophylla), can be blue, red, pink, or purple. In these species the exact colour often depends on the pH of the soil; acidic soils produce blue flowers, neutral soils produce very pale cream petals, and alkaline soils results in pink or purple. Hydrangeas are one of very few plants that accumulate aluminium. Aluminium is released from acidic soils, and in some species, forms complexes in the hydrangea flower giving them their blue colour.
Species in the related genus Schizophragma, also in Hydrangeaceae, are also often known as hydrangeas. Schizophragma hydrangeoides and Hydrangea petiolaris are both commonly known as climbing hydrangeas.

Partial list of species

Cultivation and uses

Hydrangeas are popular ornamental plants, grown for their large flowerheads, with Hydrangea macrophylla being by far the most widely grown with over 600 named cultivars, many selected to have only large sterile flowers in the flowerheads. Some are best pruned on an annual basis when the new leaf buds begin to appear. If not pruned regularly, the bush will become very 'leggy', growing upwards until the weight of the stems is greater than their strength, at which point the stems will sag down to the ground and possibly break. Other species only flower on 'old wood'. Thus new wood resulting from pruning will not produce flowers until the following season.
Hydrangeas are moderately toxic if eaten, with all parts of the plant containing cyanogenic glycosides. However, poisoning is rare, as the plant does not look like an enticing food source.
In Korean tea, Hydrangea serrata (hangul:산수국 hanja:) is used for an herbal tea called ilsulcha (이슬차).
Hydrangea paniculata is sometimes smoked to produce cannabis-like effects.
hydrangea in Danish: Hortensia
hydrangea in German: Hortensien
hydrangea in Modern Greek (1453-): Ορτανσία
hydrangea in Spanish: Hydrangea
hydrangea in Esperanto: Hidrangeo
hydrangea in French: Hortensia
hydrangea in Upper Sorbian: Hortensija
hydrangea in Italian: Hydrangea
hydrangea in Luxembourgish: Hortensen
hydrangea in Hungarian: Hortenzia
hydrangea in Malayalam: ഹൈഡ്രാഞ്ചിയ
hydrangea in Dutch: Hortensia
hydrangea in Dutch Low Saxon: Attinsioa
hydrangea in Japanese: アジサイ
hydrangea in Polish: Hortensja (roślina)
hydrangea in Portuguese: Hortênsia
hydrangea in Russian: Гортензия
hydrangea in Simple English: Hydrangea
hydrangea in Finnish: Hortensiat
hydrangea in Swedish: Hortensior
hydrangea in Thai: ไฮเดรนเยีย
hydrangea in Vietnamese: Cẩm tú cầu
hydrangea in Chinese: 繡球花
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