The History of Hydrangeas

The hydrangea was first cultivated in Japan, but ancient hydrangea fossils dating back to 40-65 million years ago have been discovered in North America. Hydrangeas didn’t appear in Europe until 1736 when a colonist brought a North American varietal to England. The name hydrangea comes from the Greek “hydor,” meaning water, and “angos,” meaning jar or vessel. This roughly translates to “water barrel,” referring to the hydrangea’s need for plenty of water and its cup-shaped flower. With its wooden stems and lacy, star-shaped flowers packed closely together in a pompom, the hydrangea’s color ranges from white to blue to pink and purple, determined by the acidity level of the soil. (Source)

Traditionally, hydrangeas are also a polite way of telling a suitor you are uninterested. Now they are beautiful garden decoration that line many houses in suburban America. (Source) In Japan, the flower has a historical tradition behind it linked to apologies and gratitude. An emperor supposedly gave Hydrangeas to a maiden he loved as an apology for neglecting her when other business took up all his attention. Contemporary florists in Japan use it to represent genuine emotions and love because the pink blossoms in particular resemble a beating heat. The Victorians were not as fond of the Hydrangea and considered it a mostly negative plant. The flowers were sent to declare someone a boaster or braggart, or to chastise someone for their frigidity in turning down a claim of romantic love. It also means frigidity because of the Medieval belief that young women who grew or picked Hydrangeas would never find a husband. Modern Western florists often use the flowers in wedding bouquets and apology arrangements to tie in with their graceful and abundant meanings. (Source)

The Uses of Hydrangeas

Hydrangeas are primarily used for landscaping because their petals contain low levels of cyanide, making them unfit for consumption. (The leaves of hydrangeas are poisonous if ingested because they contain cyanogenic glycosides, which release hydrogen cyanide when chewed.) The exception is hydrangea serrata which Buddhists drink in a sweet tea as part of a cleansing ritual. The tea is said to help treat autoimmune disorders as well as malaria, kidney stones and enlarged prostate. In Western culture the hydrangea has many different uses. Native Americans used the root as a diuretic and the bark as pain relief specifically for muscle pain and burns. (Source) Hydrangea root can be used as an antioxidant, and is also used to treat kidney problems.(Source)

Hydrangea flowers bloom in a variety of different formations. The most popular are the mophead hydrangeas, whose flowers grow in big ball-shaped clusters. Lacecap hydrangeas, which grow well in shade, have clusters of tiny blooms accented by larger blooms. Panicle hydrangeas, which grow well in cold, have flowers that grow in cone-shaped clusters.

Because of their many meanings, hydrangeas are great for many different occasions including heartfelt moments, apologies, and thanks. (Source)

The Symbolism and Colours

The vigorously growing Hydrangea shrub symbolizes diverse meanings including:

  • Heartfelt and honest emotions of any kind
  • Gratitude and thanksgiving to someone else
  • Developing a deeper understanding between two people
  • Heartlessness and acting without thinking about the feelings of another
  • Frigidity and disinterest in a romantic proposal
  • Boasting and bragging about false accomplishments
  • Abundance and prosperity
  • Grace and beauty, sometimes taken to an extreme of vanity and narcissism the 4th wedding anniversary for a couple

With such mixed meanings behind one flower, it is important to pair Hydrangeas with other flowers to make sure you get the right meaning across.

Most Hydrangeas grow in a single color per plant, but the Bigleaf Hydrangea changes color from pink to blue based on soil pH.
Common color meaning associations include:

  • Pink – Linked to romance, heartfelt emotions, love, weddings, and marriage.
  • Blue – Connected to frigidity, turning down a romantic proposal, asking for forgiveness, and expressing regret.
  • White – Known as a symbol of purity, grace, abundance, and bragging or boasting.
  • Purple – Used to indicate a desire for a deeper understanding of someone else or to symbolize abundance and wealth. (Source)

Special Occasions for the Hydrangea Flowers

Try giving the gift of Hydrangeas for:

  • Weddings, engagements, and other unifying ceremonies
  • Sending a message of “No thanks” to a suitor
  • Asking someone for forgiveness and reconciliation
  • Celebrating your 4th wedding anniversary

The Hydrangea Flower’s Message Is…
Being a rare beauty can lead to frigidness unless you express your true emotions. Don’t inflate your ego with bragging, and stay humble to become prosperous. (Source)

Current available hydrangea bouquet: Hera