Hydrangea Hardy; China/Japan

When purchasing hydrangea plants for room decoration it is important that pre-wrapped plants are not selected, as many of these are very badly grown in conditions that are much too cold, with the result that they become hard in appearance and lose many of their lower leaves. A seemingly innocent protective paper bag can conceal many ills, so it is wise to insist on seeing the actual plants and not just the few flowers that are showirfg at the top of the wrapping. With hydrangeas, a good buy is a plant no more than 60cm/2ft tall having stems well furnished with rich green leaves and at least five flower heads, some open with others to follow. It should also be in a pot of not less than 13cm/5inin diameter -there is seldom sufficient goodness in smaller pots to maintain hydrangea plants for any length of time. Colouring of hydrangea flowers is also very variable so one should seek out those with a blue, pink or white colouring that is well defined.

Indoors, the principal requirement of the hydrangea plant is a light and cool position in which to grow and an abundant supply of moisture at its roots while in active growth -during the winter the plant can be allowed to dry out completely. Whether plants are needed for growing or for taking cuttings from in the spring they should be placed out of doors during the winter and will benefit if they can have the protection of a glass frame while outside. In early spring they should be taken indoors again and watering should be started. Once a reasonable amount of growth has developed plants can be potted on into larger containers using a loam-based mixture, lime-free for blue-flowered forms to maintain the colour. New growth will quickly develop, and when it is obvious which of the shoots are going to produce flowers, select those that are blind for taking cuttings from to make new plants for the following year. Cuttings root reasonably easily in a warm propagator in a peat and sand mixture.

Besides being fine room, conservatory and terrace plants, the hydrangea bought for room decoration may, when finished flowering indoors, be planted out in the garden.

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