'Lady in Red' hydrangea is a standout in the Hydrangea macrophylla galaxy. You can see, when you scroll further through the pictures, it has these natty red leaf stems (called petioles) and leaf veins, plus the current year's stem growth is red too.
Coupled with these red highlights, the foliage is darker green than typical macs. Due to 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 - scroll through the pics to see the fall color images at the end. There aren't many bigleaf hydrangeas with good fall color, so this hydrangea will stand out at that time too.
About the the lacecap flowers: they open white (or white tinged blue or pink) and age deeper blue or pink, depending on your soil pH and aluminum availability. "It's complicated," as folks say nowadays.
Either color, they age red and stick around antiqued that way to prolong the flowering season. The fourth 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 6a. We check on it at the Heritage Museum hydrangea garden (in Sandwich, MA, zone 6b) and find it in full flowering glory after cold winters. At Heritage it will flower in late June or July when the flower buds on other macs have been killed (or course, in that garden there's still time for remontant types like BloomStruck, Penny Mac, and Twist-n-Shout to set flower buds that will bloom in the autumn.)
We saw something similar in a garden in Watkinsville, GA, spring 2018 - Lady in Red had tons of flowers when others cultivars had sparse flowers. It's simply more cold hardy than others.
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. It turns out that the first year or two LIR won't do much except grow in size (so people's initial reactions to the cultivar were muted), but give it a few years and it will burst forth in flower and "wow" you for three seasons. (Aside: that is a common occurrence with hydrangeas newly planted in a garden - given them a few years to settle in and start impressing you.)
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: burgundy
Fall Leaf Color Quality
red stems on 1st year growth
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, during those spring cold snaps when the new growth is already growing (that precious new growth that includes the flower buds!), we trust the Lady in Red and don't even bother covering to protect the foliage and flowers buds - we're confident that they're more cold hardy and will survive just fine.
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