A while back I was asked if I’d like to receive a sample of Strawberries & Cream hydrangea, a gift plant targeted at Mother’s Day. I agreed, but was astonished to receive not one, but six plants:As you can read on the tag below, these hydrangeas are intended to be given as gifts and treated as indoor plants, similar to how you would treat poinsettias. It is a bit confusing to be told it can be grown outdoors in Zones 7-9 and then be told it is hardy to Zone 6. For us cold climate gardeners, it is irrelevant, except to highlight that all plant tags are to be taken with a grain of salt.
And after all, they were gift plants, so I gave one to my daughter to bring to the medical office where she worked. I gave one to my mother and another to my mother-in-law. I decided to give one each to the two places in the village I visit frequently: the library and the bank. That way, I figured, I was sharing these plants with the whole community.
In every case, the recipients were delighted to get them and everyone who saw them responded enthusiastically and wanted to know where to buy them. They are being sold at Lowes for Mother’s Day and I saw them in my local store just yesterday. There is also a blue-flowered Blueberries & Cream for those who are averse to pink. But, pink or blue, I don’t think they’re for everybody. Let me tell you why.
My daughter took her hydrangea to work on a Friday, where everyone oohed and aahed over it. It was a big hit. But when she came back to work on Monday, Strawberries & Cream was toast. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.) It had completely dried out and the leaves were crispy. I had noticed mine drooping but had kept up on the watering. There was no one at her office there during the weekend to notice the shrub was getting parched.
Hydrangeas are known for needing a lot of water, but I also discovered that my hydrangea was extremely rootbound. Once I potted it on it didn’t wilt quite so quickly, but I still needed to water at least twice a week. To me, it needed a lot more attention than a poinsettia and wasn’t nearly as tolerant of neglect. Take a look at my hydrangea forty days later:If all the flowers looked as good as the best one, this would still be an attractive plant. You can see some damaged leaves due to not watering promptly enough. Those could be trimmed or removed and it would still look okay if the flowers were all still nice, but they’re not.
Since I had seen what happened to my daughter’s hydrangea before I gave the rest of them away, I warned the recipients that they needed a lot of water and also told them not to feel bad if they couldn’t keep up. When I returned in a week, the library’s plant was still on the counter, but the bank’s plant was nowhere to be seen, and I didn’t ask. After two weeks my mom said she was ready to give up, and my mother-in-law never mentioned it to me.
My conclusion is this is best given to someone who loves to get something pretty for Mother’s Day but doesn’t care if it lasts no longer than a vase of cut flowers (and maybe not even that long). Don’t bring it to the office and expect it to look acceptable when you come back from the weekend, unless you have staff who work weekends and consider watering plants part of their job. If you give this to a plant lover, make sure you warn her about the hydrangea’s high watering needs, and if you are really kind, you will pot it into a bigger pot before you ever hand it over.
In the spirit of experimentation, I kept on watering the hydrangea my daughter brought home to see if I could revive it. I removed the few leaves that hadn’t dropped off and cut off all the spent flowers, but didn’t pot it on. New leaves started to emerge all along the bare stems. After they were about a half inch long they all shriveled up. At first I thought I messed up on watering, but the soil was moist. Too moist. Further investigation revealed that there was standing water in the cache pot, so I think this hydrangea rotted. I might have brought it all the way back to health if I had potted it on, but would it have bloomed again? Perhaps if I then planted it outside, but in my climate there wouldn’t have been much point.
I am grateful to Tesselaar Plants for the opportunity to review Strawberries & Cream. It really was gorgeous for a couple of weeks, but I did have to water consistently to keep it that way.
Congratulations to Flea, who won a set of 100 MOO MiniCards in last week’s giveaway.