Lacecap Hydrangeas – A Tapestry of Beauty

Carolyn Black
Adams County Master Gardener in Training

My love of lacecap hydrangeas began a few years ago while vacationing with our family in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. We visited The Elizabethan Gardens on Roanoke Island. The Gardens included a collection of Renaissance statues and Elizabethan-style buildings that let you imagine that you were back in the time of Queen Elizabeth I. The highlight of the gardens for me was the beautiful tapestry of lacecap hydrangeas. Of course, our trip would not have been complete without purchasing one of the lacecap hydrangeas that were sold at the Gardens!

Lacecap Hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla normalis) get their name from its unique flat shape, which resembles a cap. They are characterized by their distinctive blossoms. The perimeter of the flower has open blooms, whereas the center is made up of small bud-like blooms.

The flowers on the lacecap hydrangea can range in color from blue, pink, to white. The color is often dependent on the acidity level of the soil. Blue flowers will be produced if the soil is acid and pink flowers are likely to be produced in alkaline soils. The first lacecap hydrangea that I purchased was blue. My personal preference is pink, so lime applied to the soil has now produced a beautiful pink lacecap hydrangea to accentuate our garden.

The leaves on lacecap hydrangeas are thick and somewhat heart-shaped with a slight shininess. It is impossible to distinguish a lacecap hydrangea from other varieties through just its leaves, because lacecap hydrangeas’ leaves are identical to those of the mophead hydrangea.

Treat lacecap hydrangeas exactly the same as mophead hydrangeas. In some ways, the lacecap is easier than the mophead to place in the landscape because it is looser, more graceful, and more subtle in its effect. They can grow in most soil types, but will be most successful if the soil retains moisture well. The majority of lacecap hydrangeas grow well in largely shaded areas because most of them are woodland plants. The flowers of lacecap hydrangeas are not tolerant of excessive sunlight and will burn if they are not protected from harsh mid-day sun. A lacecap hydrangea will not require much pruning, but when you do prune, timing is crucial. Lacecap hydrangeas bloom on old wood, which are stems that have been on the plant since the previous season. Generally speaking, the best time of year to prune a lacecap hydrangea is in the early summer. Avoid doing so from the month of July on, as this can potentially disturb the bush and adversely affect the flowers that would otherwise bloom in the next growing season.

When picking a lacecap hydrangea, it is important to consider if it will survive in your climate. Lacecap hydrangeas are cold hardy to Zone 6. Make sure you don’t buy a potted indoor lacecap hydrangea if you are planning on planting it outdoors. These are often more delicate lacecaps that will not be able to survive in colder temperatures like the more hardy outdoor varieties.

Mature lacecaps can be magnificent. They fit quite naturally into woodland locations, snuggling under and around trees such as dogwoods and other shrubs. They make a lovely display in a flower garden accented with other woody plantings. While planning your garden landscape plantings this winter, consider lacecap hydrangeas. You will not be disappointed!

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