Not-Your-Average Hydrangea Plant for Under $30

I’ve always loved hydrangeas. I can remember the colorful pink, blue and lavender blooms in my grandparents (well, really – grandpa’s backyard) in San Francisco when I was a kid. I’ve always loved hydrangeas. I can remember the colorful pink, blue and lavender blooms in my grandparents (well, really – grandpa’s backyard) in San Francisco when I was a kid.

Now, because I have a dog (they’re poisonous to dogs) I can only plant them in my front yard. I’ve never done well with them but perhaps they’re not suited to the hot summers here. I also don’t see them in local nurseries very often. They are very prevalent in flower shops in the spring, but I have a cat and since I think they might also be poisonous to cats, I don’t keep them in my home either.

The Cardinal hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla Kardinal( is spectacular with color bursts of blue, mauve and deep lavender often on just one bloom. Once confined to Europe, these plants can be hard to find but well worth the search.

They normally grow to only about four feet tall and all the plant’s production seems to go into its beautiful flowers. The blooms start on as a lovely lavender-blue and then change to lighter shades of violet-blue and finally end up a dusty mauve. They also grow to a width of between three and four feet.

Until firmly established, it needs some shade and quite a bit of moisture. Then, it turns out to be a good drought resistant plant and thrives well in the South as well as the West. Acidic soil works best but any moist, well-drained soil will work. (Zones 6 – 9).

Another very unusual hydrangea is the “Oakleaf Hydrangea Little Honey” (Hydrangea quercifolia Little Honey) plant. Its distinctive golden to scarlet hues of fall colored greenery stay colorful into late summer. When in starts to bloom, the leaves turn a deep green and big, (6″ – 8″) beautiful white flowers appear. With the first chill of winter, the leaves and stems of the plant turn a fiery red and stay that way through the cold weather. It’s really an all year round shrub.

The “Little Honey” hydrangea also grows to only about four feet tall and three to four feet in width. It does best in partial shade in the South or full sun in the North. (zones 5 – 9.)

One of my other favorite varieties of the hydrangea plant, is the Nikko Blue (Hydrangea macrophylla Nikko Blue). In acidic soils, it’s a stunning darker blue than most hydrangeas, and in neutral soil it sports pink flowers along with the blue. This variety is the most “color-consistent” plant of the “blue” hydrangeas. The plant will reach its full height of about six feet in three to four years, maybe less. (Zones 5 -with protection) – 9.)

The “Penny Mac” (Hydrangea macrophylla Penny Mac) is another favorite with its blue flowers (can you tell I like anything blue!). It will bloom twice – once in early summer and again in late summer/early fall. In warmer climates, it frequently blooms all summer long. You can let the blooms dry to a soft blue and use them in dry arrangements all year long.

It thrives best in partial to full shade in moist, well-drained soil. It grows to about five feet at its adult stage and about four feet wide. It’s quite tolerant of heat and humidity if you keep it well watered. It does especially well in the colder climates when the chill kills off the blooms on other varieties.

They are a lot more varieties of the hydrangea plant – the Annabelle-lovely white floers and others. Look for them the time you visit your nursery.

Garden with a green thumb.

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