Virtues: Fire Island hydrangea is a roughly three-foot cultivar with dramatically dark green leaves and sturdy stems, all the better to show off its big mopheads of frilly pink-and-white flowers that appear repeatedly from spring through summer.
Common name: Seaside Serenade Fire Island bigleaf hydrangea
Botanical name: Hydrangea macrophylla Fire Island (‘HORTFIRE’)
Exposure: Part shade to light shade
Flowers: Rounded domes of lime-green buds open up to bi-color flowers beginning in late spring, with a repeat bloom through the summer. The individual flowers open white with a frilly rosy-pink edging. Over time they age to solid warm pink. Unlike some hydrangeas, this cultivar’s flowers are not affected by soil pH; they will be pink in any setting.
Foliage: The broad, leathery leaves are dark green through the summer, but they show a maroon cast in spring and again in fall.
Habit: This is a quick-growing, compact hydrangea that reaches about three feet wide and three-and-a-half feet tall. It drops its leaves in the fall.
Origin: Bred by Kolster BV in The Netherlands and introduced by Monrovia as part of its Seaside Serenade series of hydrangeas.
How to grow it: Site Fire Island hydrangea where it will receive only a few hours of direct sun each day, preferably in the morning; or where it will remain in light, filtered shade all day. It needs moist soil and it will require supplemental watering in dry spells, especially in its first season. A layer of mulch several inches thick should be maintained to preserve soil moisture and regulate soil temperature. Faded blossoms can be snipped away, but the only other pruning this compact cultivar should need is the removal of dead or weak stems at the base, which can be done at any time of year. Should you wish to prune this shrub more drastically, do so only at the end of the summer, to avoid removing flower buds developing for the next spring’s bloom. USDA Zones 4–9.
Image courtesy of Monrovia