Hydrangea macrophylla 'Lady in Red'- bigleaf hydrangea
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'Lady in Red' bigleaf hydrangea is a standout in the Hydrangea macrophylla galaxy. You can see, it has these natty red leaf stems (called petioles) and leaf veins, plus the youngest stem growth is red too.
Coupled with these red highlights, the foliage is darker green than typical "macs." With these summer leaf features alone, Lady in Red pops out amongst other hydrangeas with foliar distinction. Then comes autumn and we get to enjoy excellent bronze-red turning burgundy fall color. (There aren't many bigleaf hydrangeas with good fall color.)
About the the lacecap flowers, they are blue or pink, depending on your soil pH and aluminum availability. Either color, they age red and stick around antiqued that way to prolong the flowering season. The third close-up flower picture shows how the sepals of the sterile florets turned red and flipped over (they flip when the flower head has been pollinated.)
This is an all-around great lacecap hydrangea and it's a little more cold hardy then others, doing well in zone 7a. Due to some inner quirk, I was reluctant to admit that Lady in Red lacecap hydranga is one of my favorites until others started admitting the same. Phew! I can finally come clean. I think my reservation to admit this is because it's a lacecap hydrangea and those aren't as popular as the mopheads Why not? Anybody have any insight on this? Do tell!
a hydrangea with excellent fall color
single specimen and accent use
large container use
grouping and massing, large swaths
flower and shrub borders
tolerant of salt spray so great for maritime climates
more cold tolerant that other macs
as heat tolerant as any, i.e., excellent heat tolerance
decorative red stems and leaf petiole
superior cold hardiness to other Hydrangea macrophyllas
leaf color interesting for designers
Lady in Red bigleaf hydrangea
bigleaf hydrangea, french hydrangea, lacecap hydrangea, hydrangea
USDA Hardiness Zones
flowering shrub, deciduous
blue, pink, red
Spring: dark green
Summer: dark green
Fall Leaf Color Quality
red stems on 1st year growth
Native to USA?
Soil Moisture Requirements
moist-but-draining, no standing water
Soil pH Requirements
acid, neutral, alkaline
sun, part shade, shade
To Make It Thrive
Give Lady in Red rich soil and consistent moisture in a soil that drains. She may need extra watering, but doesn't like standing water.
Make sure LIR has full shade or afternoon shade in the deep south (zones 8 and 9) not only for the foliage, but so the flowers don't get sun scald. Increasing amounts of sunlight is increasingly tolerable the further north one goes on the map.
Traveling northward, consider planting in warm sheltered locations, such as near heated buildings.
Here in zone 8a, we cover to protect flower buds during spring transition - the up and down temps cause flushes of growth that are then zapped by cold. Covering the growth with old terry cloth towels or thermal blankets generally works to ensure summer flowers.
Is 'Lady in Red' remontant? No, she's not remontant, but she's more cold hardy so you will likely get flowers when other types have been killed back.
When do I prune? Bigleaf hydrangea flowers on old wood, so if you need to prune, do so in the summer after flowering. See our blog posts about pruning.