Why Are Hydrangeas Also Called Hortensias?

Learn the stories behind the shrub's many monikers, including hortensia.

Ever wondered about the history of hydrangeas? They were first cultivated in Asia and have become popular plantings across the world. The genus now includes over 75 species of varying forms, shapes, and colors. Flowers have lots of different meanings and associated symbolism, and hydrangeas are generally considered to be associated with gratitude and heartfelt emotion. While we most often identify these familiar blooms as "hydrangeas," they're also known by other names. Where did they get their names, and would a hydrangea by any other name seem as sweet?

Name Origin

Firstly, where did the name "hydrangea" come from? According to ProFlowers, "The etymological meaning of hydrangea stems from the Greek words for water, hydros and jar, angos. It was given to the plant because of its shape resembling an ancient water pitcher. How fitting, since hydrangeas require constant moisture to stay happy, healthy and blooming." Hydrangeas are water-loving shrubs and their name nods to that fact, but they have other names too.

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Other Names

Have you ever heard a hydrangea bush called a "hortensia"? Long used as a common name for the plant, the name 'hortensia' also indicates a specific selection of bigleaf hydrangea, which goes by the scientific name Hydrangea macrophylla 'Hortensia.' In general, however, according to Proven Winners, Hortensia is "an old-fashioned common name for mophead forms of Hydrangea macrophylla. It is also the French and the Spanish word for hydrangea." It can also be traced to the common French name Hortense, which in Latin means "gardener" or "of the garden," an apt moniker for the blooming shrub that seems omnipresent in our Southern gardens.

Hydrangeas for Your Garden

If you want a hydrangea and aren’t sure where to put it, try your front porch. Many hydrangeas grow well in containers and can be moved if they need less shade or more shelter. Give them morning sun and water a few times a week. The best spot in your yard is one with good drainage, early sun, and partial shade. Make sure there’s plenty of room for the hydrangea to grow. Choose types of hydrangeas that can thrive in Southern climates, such as bigleaf hydrangea, oakleaf hydrangea, and panicle hydrangea.

Hydrangea Care

With the right conditions, hydrangeas are fairly easy to grow. For more information on hydrangeas, read Get the Low-Down on Hydrangea Care, The Grumpy Gardener's Guide to Hydrangeas, and 8 Mistakes You Should Never Make With Your Hydrangeas.

What's your favorite blooming shrub? Do you have hydrangeas planted in your garden, and are they flowering this season?

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