Facts About The Species Hydrangea Aspera
Common Types Of Hydrangea - Hydrangea aspera is not one of the better known of the hydrangea species, which is a little unfortunate as several of its cultivars make rather spectacular additions to a yard or garden. The most popular hydrangeas can be roughly decided into four categories or types - the Mop head and Lace cap hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla), the family "Annabelle" (Hydrangea arborescens), the Oak leaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea quercifolia), and the PeeGee family (Hydrangea paniculata).
Of these categories, Hydrangea macrophylla, the Mop heads and Lace caps, are the types found in most gardens, with the Mop heads being by far the most common. It isn't that the Lace caps, of which Hydrangea aspera is member, are not popular, but just not as well known. When most people think hydrangea, they think Mop head hydrangea.
One reason the Lace cap types, in particular the Hydrangea aspera have been somewhat slow to gain popularity is that a number of cultivars are hardy in the warmer zones only, typically in USDA Zones 7 and above. In warm climates, these plants can reach up to 10 feet in height, but approach nowhere near that in cooler climates. The leaves of the Hydrangea aspera and it cultivars are noted for being rather hairy, as is also the case with the young shoots. When grown in its conditions, the blooms of Hydrangea aspera are very large and quite colorful, usually a combination of purple and white, or pink, purple and white. In actuality, the flowers themselves are a single color, usually blue or purple, with the showy outer sepals being white to a lilac-pink.
A Halloween Plant? - The bud clusters from which the blossoms form have bees described by some as "beautiful", and by others as "creepy", or "scary". If you view a close up image of a head of developing flower buds, they indeed take on a somewhat otherworldly appearance, inviting you to gaze upon them, but ready to bite if you get too close! There's nothing scary about the blooms once the buds have opened up however.
Try the Sargent - The nomenclature surrounding this species can at times be somewhat confusing, as the names of cultivars and species are often interchanged. Hydrangea sargentiana is one such example. Often listed as a species, it is actually a sub-species or cultivar of Hydrangea aspera. Hydrangea sargentiana often goes by the name Sargent hydrangea. It is a very popular cultivar as it grows well in colder climates, and if you live in USDA Zones 3 through 8, this would be the cultivar of choice. Growing to around 8 feet tall, the flower heads are between 5 and 6 inches in diameter and pale purple in the center surrounded by rays of white sepals.
Some Trial And Error? - The success gardeners have with these types of hydrangeas, both the Lace caps and the Mop heads, seems to vary quite a bit from place to place. Some hydrangeas appear to do fine in cooler climates, while others do not do well in areas where the average temperature is lower. This may seem a bit puzzling, as we are generally led to believe that warmer is better for hydrangeas. There are really two factors involved. One is hydrangeas seem to do better in a cooler climate if the winters are very cold, even though the leaves and flowers are not frost hardy, and do not do as well in a cooler climate with mild winters. A second factor is that hydrangeas do not seem to tolerate rapid swings in temperature, nor can they always survive a sudden cold snap after a lengthy period of warm weather. If you want to grow hydrangeas, be it one of the cultivars of Hydrangea aspera, another Lace cap, a Mop head, or one of the other two types, it may take a bit of trail and error to find the best match for your garden. A local nursery though will no doubt stock the varieties that will work for you.