Known for their beautiful blooms and leafy foliage, hydrangeas are the epitome of summer. But turns out there's quite a bit about this fan-favorite shrub that surprised us.

Nicole Bradley
Updated March 03, 2020
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Kritsada Panichgul

This story originally appeared on: bhg.com

We love hydrangeas for their giant cluster flowers that grace gardens and bouquets around the world, but there's much more to these classic, romantic shrubs than meets the eye. Here are six things you didn't know about hydrangeas (until now).

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1. Meaning Behind the Name

Believe it or not, you can tell a lot about hydrangea plant care by its name. Hydrangea is from Greek descent: "Hydor" means water and "angos" means jar or vessel. This explains hydrangeas' need for lots of water to thrive.

2. Hydrangea Symbolism

The symbolism behind the hydrangea flower differs with culture and time period. In Japan, hydrangeas are said to be a sign of gratitude because ancient emperors would give them to their maidens as a sign of thanks. On the other hand, Victorians believed that hydrangeas symbolized boastfulness or vanity because they produce so many blooms but drop little seed to share. Each hydrangea color also has a meaning behind it:

  • Pink represents love and sincerity
  • Blue represents forgiveness
  • White represents boasting or bragging
  • Purple represents abundance and understanding

3. Discovery of Hydrangeas

Although hydrangeas are native to Asia, one specific variety was discovered in America in 1910. An Illinois woman named Harriet Kirkpatrick was out horseback riding and discovered the variety we know and love today, 'Annabelle'. Harriet returned to the site of the hydrangea, dug the plant out, planted in her own yard, and shared with neighbors as the plant kept growing.

4. They Are Poisonous

Hydrangeas are extremely poisonous. The compounds in the leaves release cyanide when eaten, so keep the plant away from small children or pets. Although they're poisonous, it's reported that ancient Buddhists used the roots as an antioxidant in tea to cure kidney issues (but don't try this at home!).

5. Changing the Flower Color

For one type known as bigleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla), you can change the color of their flowers by manipulating the soil acidity with soil amendments. The more acidic the soil, the bluer your hydrangeas will turn out. The more alkaline, the pinker your hydrangeas will be. Science for the win!

6. Hydrangea Day

People love this plant so much, there's a day dedicated to it! Hydrangea Day is January 5. Ironically, the flowers are out of season at this time. Don't fret, you can still enjoy hydrangeas at any time of year: Try drying them to preserve them!

This story originally appeared on: bhg.com