There are few shrubs with flowers that rival those of the hydrangea. With cloud-like blooms that come in a variety of colors, it’s hard not to love these classic cottage flowers. Along with being beautiful, hydrangeas also pack interesting meanings and symbolism. That’s right, they’re more than just a pretty flower!
To help you fall in love with hydrangeas even more, we’re going to introduce you to the unique symbolism and uses of hydrangeas. We’ll also explain how different flower colors have different meanings, so you can choose just the right ones for your loved ones.
Origin and Etymology of the Hydrangea
While you may think of hydrangeas as one flower, this genus of plants includes over 70 species! The majority of these plants are native to China, Japan, and Korea, including the popular bigleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla). However, some hydrangea species originated in the Americas. Smooth hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens) and oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) are both native to the Eastern United States.
No matter the species, all of these plants share the same genus name. Hydrangea comes from two Greek words: hydro meaning water and angeion meaning vessel. While some people say this refers to the water’s thirsty habits, it originally referred to the plant’s cup-shaped flowers.
Hydrangeas hold a variety of symbolism, depending on the color of the flower as well as the location. Here are a few of the common meanings.
- Heartfelt emotion
- Regret and apology
- Celebration of 4th anniversary
As you can see, hydrangea symbolism is a bit all over the place. If you want to send a certain message, consider your location, the culture of the recipient, and the flower color.
Hydrangea Color Meanings
Before you plant some hydrangeas at your house or send a bouquet to a friend, remember that hydrangea flower meaning differs depending on the color. Check out the meaning behind these common hydrangea colors.
Pink hydrangeas symbolize the delightful feeling of love as well as other deep emotions. That means they’re the perfect bouquet option to show someone your love or admiration.
A mix between blue and pink, purple hydrangeas symbolize understanding and prosperity. If you want to make your garden a bit more elegant, some purple hydrangeas will do the trick.
Blue hydrangea flowers symbolize apology, regret, and forgiveness, so they’re the perfect gift if you’re looking to make amends with a loved one.
Like many other white flowers, white hydrangeas symbolize purity and innocence. Therefore, they’re often included in wedding bouquets. However, some people also link white hydrangeas to vanity and prudeness.
It’s no surprise that green hydrangeas symbolize rebirth and renewal. These natural blooms evoke a feeling of new life and new beginnings.
Hydrangea Botanical Facts
Not only are hydrangeas gorgeous, but they also come with interesting info. And if you want to learn even more, check out more facts about hydrangeas.
You’ve probably heard that hydrangeas change color based on the soil acidity…but this fact comes with a few caveats. Only certain hydrangea species can change flower color — one of these is the popular bigleaf hydrangea. If a plant has white or green flowers, the blooms won’t change color.
Another aspect that you’ll need to take into account if you want your flowers to turn from blue to pink is the soil. Aluminum must be present in the soil for blooms to change color. In fact, it’s not the actual soil pH that changes the flower color but rather a plant’s ability to access aluminum. At high pH, plants can’t take up any aluminum, which results in pink flowers. However, as the pH drops and the soil becomes more acidic, plants take up aluminum and turn pink.
If you have the right type of hydrangea and have aluminum, you’re ready for a show! If you have blue flowers and want pink flowers, add lime to increase the soil pH. And if you have pink flowers and want blue, add some aluminum sulfate to lower the pH. Coffee grounds are another way to lower the soil pH.
It’s no doubt that hydrangeas are known for their big blooms. When you first look at these flowers, it’s easy to think that the flowers are made up of big petals. However, don’t be fooled! These aren’t petals but actually modified leaves called sepals. No matter what they are, we love them.
While hydrangea flowers are beautiful, these plants have a darker side. Hydrangea leaves contain low levels of cyanogenic glycosides, compounds that release cyanide when ingested. That means it’s a good idea to keep these plants out of the reach of curious kids and pets.
Before you send someone hydrangeas, check out their cultural significance.
Hydrangeas are some of the most popular flowers in Japan. Their symbolism comes from an old story about a Japanese emperor and his love. The emperor fell in love with a girl but ended up spending limited time with her as he went about his duties. To show her his regret and care, he sent her a bouquet of hydrangeas. Ever since, hydrangeas have been tied to deep feelings of care. If you want to learn about another important flower in Japan, read about orchid symbolism.
In Victorian times, people thought hydrangeas were a bit much. With lots of flowers and few seeds, people viewed them as a sign of boastfulness and vanity. Therefore, people rarely gave them as gifts nor kept them as cut flowers.
Types of Hydrangeas
As we mentioned above, there are lots of different hydrangeas. To help understand the various types of hydrangeas, check out the different categories.
Perhaps the most popular and common type of hydrangea, mophead hydrangeas have large flower heads made up of many individual flowers. Bigleaf hydrangeas are the most commonly grown mophead hydrangea. They come in a variety of colors including pink, blue, purple, and white.
Another type of hydrangea is the laceleaf variety. These plants resemble the mophead hydrangeas, but their blooms are different. The flower heads contain many small flower buds surrounded by large flowers.
Panicle hydrangeas have cone-shaped flower heads made up of many small flowers. Many gardeners say they’re the easiest type of hydrangea to grow. The most common panicle hydrangea is Hydrangea paniculata.
Modern Uses of Hydrangeas
Today, hydrangeas are mostly used as ornamental plants. While most hydrangea species grow as small to medium shrubs, other species grow into small trees or vines. Some of these vines can even grow 100 feet long!
When it comes to ornamentals, shrub hydrangeas are the most popular option. Bigleaf hydrangea is one of the most commonly planted hydrangeas due to its large, colorful blooms. With hundreds of cultivars available, there’s a plant for just about every home and garden.
Fortunately, these hydrangea plants are easy to care for. They’re pretty hardy and can thrive in full sun or part shade. As long as you water when dry and fertilize once a year, you’ll be rewarded with full shrubs and beautiful flowers.
If you’ve ever sent or received hydrangea bouquets, you know these plants also produce gorgeous cut flowers. The beautiful blooms look great in a floral arrangement either on their own or mixed with other blooms.
Since hydrangeas have woody stems and produce a sticky sap, they can have issues taking up enough water to stay fresh. Giving the stems a fresh trim each day can help your blooms last longer. For more info on making your flowers last as long as possible, check out more tips about how to care for hydrangeas.
While you may think of flowers when you think of hydrangeas, people also use the roots. Hydrangea root has been used by people in Asia and the Americas to treat a variety of medical ailments. People use the root to help with prostate and bladder infections as well as kidney stones. However, it’s important to note that there’s not much scientific research to support these claims.
Some medical studies suggest that hydrangea root extract can help lessen kidney damage and inflammation. Other studies show that hydrangea root is rich in coumarin, a compound that has anti-inflammatory properties.
While the majority of hydrangea leaves are dangerous when consumed, there is one outlier. The Mountain Hydrangea, Hydrangea serrata, is native to the mountains of Japan and Korea. This hydrangea’s leaves contain a compound called phyllodulcin that is more than 400 times sweeter than sugar. Therefore, people use this plant’s leaves to make an herbal tea. In Japan, people call this sweet tea amacha and drink it to celebrate Buddha’s birthday.
Are Hydrangeas Bad Luck?
In general, hydrangeas are not bad luck. They symbolize good fortune and abundance more than bad luck. However, if you ingest the poisonous vegetation, you’ll be in for a bad time.
Do Hydrangeas Symbolize Death?
Hydrangeas generally do not symbolize death. With that said, they are often used as sympathy flowers. When you send the bereaved hydrangeas, you let them know your deep condolences and sympathies.Shop All