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

By Southern Living
August 10, 2020
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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 70 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 the get their names, and would a hydrangea by any other name seem as sweet?

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, which resembles 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.

Have you ever heard a hydrangea bush called ‘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.

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