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Hydrangeas 101: Other terminology

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Hydrangeas are beautiful, popular and confusing all at the same time – thankfully, Proven Winners and contributor Stacey Hirvela are trying to help take some of the confusion out of these pretty plants by giving us a “glossary” of hydrangea terms – check out the full article here, and a previous piece on hydrangea types here.

Inflorescence term used to decribe the entire flower head, composed of numerous smaller florets arranged together on a single stem.

Sterile florets the large, papery flowers that make hydrangeas “showy.” They contain little or no actual pollen and simply lure pollinators to the flowers and down to the fertile florets. Wild hydrangeas may have few or no sterile florets while mophead varieties are comprised almost entirely of them.

Fertile florets the tiny, numerous and star-like florets containing pollen – if you look closely, stamens and pistils can be clearly seen. In a lacecap flower, fertile florets comprise the bulk of the inflorescence, with sterile florets in ring on the outer edge; in a mophead, they are usually nestled down under the larger sterile flowers.

Lacecap term refers to the arrangement of florets that make up a hydrangea flower (inflorescence). In lacecap hydrangeas, the smaller, pollen-bearing fertile florets are most numerous, and are surrounded by an outer ring of the showy sterile florets. Lacecap flowers tend to be flat and loosely packed; they look light and airy, and can appear on any species of hydrangea.

Mopheadthese are the round, ball-like hydrangeas seen in flower shops and garden centers near Mother’s Day. Mophead hydrangea flowers are mostly comprised of large, showy sterile florets; they may bear smaller fertile florets, but these are often obscured by the numerous, densely packed sterile florets. Mophead flowers can be seen on several hydrangea species.

Picotee – the variation in color along the edges of a floret.

Bud hardiness – in zone 5 and sometimes 6, the roots and leaf buds of big leaf and mountain hydrangeas are hardy and able to withstand harsh winter conditions, but their delicate flower buds may not be. As an example, “Tuff Stuff” hydrangea mentions improved bud hardiness on its label, making it a reliable bloomer in colder areas.

Old wood growth that was put on during the previous season. Some hydrangeas, including big leaf, mountain, oakleaf and climbing hydrangea, flower on old wood.

New woodthe growth that a plant creates during the current season. Smooth and panicle hydrangea both flower on new wood.

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