Is Strawberries & Cream The Right Gift For Your Mother?

– Posted in: Hydrangeas, Plant info

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:

Strawberries & Cream Hydrangea

Strawberries & Cream Hydrangeas shortly after they arrived.

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.
Label for Strawberries & Cream Hydrangea

Read the label: it's only hardy to Zone 7--or is it Zone 6?

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:

Strawberries & Cream hydrangea best flowers

After 40 days, the best flowers on this Strawberries & Cream hydrangea are faded but still showy.

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.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.

~Albert Camus in Albert Camus quotations

Comments on this entry are closed.

kim May 16, 2014, 11:14 am

I live in PA, if I plant these outside will they come back next year like my other hydrandea plants do?

Kathy Purdy May 16, 2014, 11:52 am

It is hardy to USDA Zone 7. There are several hardiness zones in PA, so I really can’t say. You can look up your hardiness zone by zip code and get a pretty good idea that way.

Lois May 12, 2013, 11:05 am

I just received one of these for Mother’s Day this morning. I was happy to read it is hardy to Zone 6 (I live in 6, in CT) but sighed when I read on the internet 7 is the coldest it will be a perennial.
I’ll try anyway. for now, it will just be a centerpiece.

Kathy Purdy May 12, 2013, 12:41 pm

Make sure it gets plenty of water!

schrodinger April 1, 2013, 5:35 pm

I’ve got one of these, but it was grown for outdoor cultivation rather than as a short-lived gift plant. Mine is doing just great and is getting ready to bloom again. This is its second year and it has clearly grown! Often, these ‘gift plants’ are the same species as outdoor plants, but they’re cultivated for spectacular, one-time shows. As another poster said, the idea of throw-away plants is appalling and if I find a gift plant that I particularly like at a store, I will often try to find the same plant that’s been cultivated to grow outside. The flowers might not be as spectacular in display, but the plants are generally healthier and more likely to survive to give more joy. They may also bloom even better for a longer period the next season if cared for correctly. Why limit someone to a 10 inch tall plant with 4 flowers for a week or two, when they can have a 2-then-3-then 5-then 8-then 10 foot tall bush with hundreds of blooms for many years? I also include a gift card with simple care instructions specific to the area (not generic ‘plant tags’) so that the recipient knows exactly how to keep their gift alive and beautiful. In a few cases, this resulted in the recipient gaining the confidence to try gardening, or to try new plants. That’s the best gift of all.

franky May 29, 2012, 3:23 pm

i just discovered your blog…and i love it!

Kelly Ash May 22, 2012, 2:49 pm

I love my hydrangeas … but I’ve only grown them outside in the garden. Thanks for the heads up – when I see something new I am all too-often tempted to bring it home and try it out! And this is something I would definitely try! I love all hydrangeas, but I have a particular weakness for the “Everlasting” and “Forever & Ever” blooming varieties.


Donna May 21, 2012, 9:51 pm

I enjoyed meeting you the past week at the Fling. I receive many hydrangea as gifts and each are florist varieties. So far so good in the garden, but they are planted in a microclimate that is warmer than our 6b zone. They did get knocked back a bit this year with our fluctuating weather though.

Janet, The Queen of Seaford May 20, 2012, 9:50 pm

Six plants as a holiday ‘gift’ is nice. Lucky you! Good meeting you this weekend and hope to chat a little tomorrow before everyone goes their separate ways.

Andrew @ Gardening tips and Ideas May 18, 2012, 3:21 am

What a nice colour!
Hydrangeas are a much underrated plant for the garden
It is always worth trying out the ‘indoor ones’ in the garden even if you have to put them in a pot and bring them indoors in the winter.

Some hydrangeas are forced for the indoor market but perform well outside if settled in correctly.

Sad for the hydrangeas is that they are considered funeral plants in some parts of the world and have no place in the garden as they are often placed on graves.

But still a great plant and I would always find a spot in my garden for one

Cynthia May 15, 2012, 10:29 pm

I do love hydrangeas but they are extremely difficult over the long haul.

I agree with you if you are giving it to someone who is not an experienced gardener it will be a short lived gift.

Maybe an experienced gardener can help the plants live on!

Sheds Direct May 14, 2012, 10:08 am

The Hydrangeas are to fiddly to be kept indoors unless you know what you are doing. Given to anyone inexperienced can be a problem- not recommended in my opinion

Donalyn May 11, 2012, 5:54 pm

I just saw these in the grocery store today – they do look really pretty, so I can see why people would be tempted to get one!

Kathy Purdy May 11, 2012, 8:34 pm

And there’s nothing wrong with getting one–just don’t expect it to last a long time.

commonweeder May 10, 2012, 8:42 am

Thanks for reminding me that there are ‘florist’ hydrangeas. I have one and have been trying to figure out just what to do with it. with careful watering maybe I’ll at least be able to keep it through the summer.

Flâneur Gardener May 10, 2012, 12:41 am

I do like hydrangeas, but in my experience they aren’t very suitable as house plants.

(Also, I wonder if the strawberry and blueberry versions might be the same plant, since – in my limited experience – the difference between a blue and a pink hydrangea is often found in the acidity of the soil.)

Mr. McGregor's Daughter May 9, 2012, 10:31 pm

I don’t like to give high maintenance plants as gifts, they make me feel guilty, like I’m giving the gift of too much work. If I knew the recipient would just enjoy it for a little while and toss it, I’d feel less guilty, but I hate the thought of throw-away plants. I’ll just skip buying them.

Gail May 9, 2012, 8:27 pm

I’ve always steered clear of plants that need to be babied like this one~even id they are really nice looking.

Robin Ripley May 9, 2012, 6:32 pm

I have some house plants that require watering 2x/week. To me it’s no big deal. But I know not everyone wants to worry about a fragile plant. It’s a lovely hydrangea though, so I wouldn’t be put off by the extra watering until I could plunk it in the ground.

Frances May 9, 2012, 2:17 pm

Thanks for this information, Kathy. I have received similar gifts of florist type hydrangeas in the past. Living in zone 7, they do winter over here in the ground, and they do need extra water the first year after planting. But they flowers are often lost to a late freeze in spring. This year the florist hydrangeas from years ago are blooming, first time ever due to good winter rain and milder than normal temperatures. Hydrangeas are shrubs that want to live in the ground in warmer climates. Period.

Layanee May 9, 2012, 2:10 pm

I will add it to the plant category ‘Destined to Die’. It was pretty though.

Robin Ripley May 9, 2012, 6:44 pm

Layanee – You could keep it alive. You could keep anything alive!

Carol May 9, 2012, 1:40 pm

Sounds like a good experience, and a good lesson that not every plant is for everyone.