Hydrangea macrophylla / Big-Leaf Hydrangea

lacecap hydrangeaIn this group of hydrangeas you’ll find the old-fashioned mopheads (photo far right below) and the newer (and now more popular) lacecaps with their flat flowers (photo on right). Both are more demanding than most of the plants listed here (especially of supplemental watering), so I warn the true low-maintenance gardener to avoid them. Instead, try H. quercifolia and H. paniculata.

Mopheads make excellent dried flowers with no work at all. Just cut them — no hanging upside down and no water needed — and they’ll usually last at least a year.

Native to Japan.


  • Sun or part shade.
  • Grows to 3-6 feet.
  • Hardy to Zones 6-10.


  • On the thirsty side, these hydrangeas will tell you when they need watering — by drooping. But wait til morning to water because drooping in the hot sun is normal and they often perk up overnight.
  • Prune, if you must, right after blooming. And I say “if you must” because the blooms look great for months, so it’s a shame to lose them. Just snip off the old blooms when they’re no longer attractive.
  • Pruning that IS really helpful is regular renewal pruning, which can be done anytime. It’s simply the removal of the oldest canes all the way to the ground, which improves the plant’s overall vigor and shapeliness. Removing the oldest and tallest stems every year (up to a third of them) also helps to make the shrub shorter.
  • Most mophead bloom colors can be changed by altering soil pH but man, this is really high-maintenance, requiring application of sulfur or lime several repeatedly in order to achieve a small change in color. So, there are no miracles.