SHOOTING STAR HYDRANGEA
Pronounced: hi-DRANG-gee-a mak-row-FILL-la
Sunset zones: 3b-9, 14-24, H1.
USDA zones: 4-9.
Heat zones: 9-6.
Height: 5 feet (1.5 m).
Width: 5 feet (1.5 m).
Late summer to autumn.
Lace cap flowers, with large, double snow white sterile flowers surrounding smaller fertile flowers.
Deciduous, coarsely toothed, dark green, eight inch long leaves.
Rounded, deciduous shrub.
Full sun to partial shade; afternoon shade is best.
Rich, moist, well-drained soil.
Side dress with compost and manure. Add a complete organic fertilizer to the soil in spring.
Softwood cuttings in early to late summer.
Minimal pruning works best for hydrangeas. Pruning them too much may increase the size of the flowers, but the stems will be floppy. The best looking Hydrangea macrophyllas are the ones that don't have pruning attention. If you need to prune, cut all canes that are flopping on the ground back to the base, and prune crossing canes. Pruning will not help reduce the size for long. If the shrub is too big for its space, move it to a new location where it can grow to its potential glory.
Rainy Side Notes
‘Sumida-no-hanabi’ translates to fireworks over the Sumida River. Originating out of Japan near Yokohama, it is a mutant of the Hydrangea macrophylla f. normalis. It was named by Mr. Takeomi Yamamoto—founder of the Japanese Hydrangea Society. The larger-than-normal hydrangea lace cap flowers are white as snow, with just a faint hint of blue in the center of its larger, sterile florets. They surround the smaller fertile flowers, but occasionally pop up in the middle of the tiny blossoms. When you view the flower heads, you can easily see why they named it fireworks!
The shrub was never patented, so you can propagate it freely. The ease of which the shrub grows roots, makes this a great plant for beginners to learn how to propagate from cuttings. Since its not remontant, it only flowers on old wood, colder regions than our maritime Northwest may not be able to grow this effectively for flowers.
During the holidays, florist shops and even upscale grocery stores sell this hydrangea. You can often find it rubbing elbows with poinsettias and Christmas cactus. Although the shrub does not bloom in winter, it is forced to do so for our holiday pleasure. Its snow-white flowers look stunning next to a deep red poinsettia. The bonus of buying this plant during the holidays is that you can enjoy it for years in your garden.
If you buy one for your holiday decorating, keep it in a well-lit window and water enough to keep the soil from drying out. Punch holes in the bottom of the florist wrapping for drainage that surrounds the pot and place on a saucer to collect excess water. Alternatively, do as I did, remove the wrapping and plop it into a decorative urn or container. After slowly acclimating the plant to the outdoors from mid to late spring you can plant and grow it on in the garden, enjoying its blooms in late summer to fall.
I find it interesting that this plant has as many aliases as a successful con man. Barry Yinger stepped up and helped me sort out its true name. However, it is being sold as H. ‘Hanabi’, H. Hanabi-Ajisai’, H. ‘Fireworks’, and H. ‘Fuji Waterfall’. One major garden publication marked it as H. ‘Shooting Star’ but this is wrong, it is a trade name and no single quotes should be around it. *Instead the customary TM or ® would be used after the name—Shooting StarTM or Shooting Star®. Since the name was first published as H. ‘Sumida-no-hanabi’ this is its actual name. Although the flowers are similar to H. ‘Fuji Waterfall’ (which is actually H. 'Fuji-no-taki') is really a cultivar of the H. serrata species. So beware when buying, you may be purchasing the wrong plant. If it has large glossy leaves, and grows to about five feet tall you most likely have H. macrophylla ‘Sumida-no-hanabi’.
*Don’t get me started on the crazy garden corporate business mindset of using trademark names. Not only are they using trademarks improperly, thus voiding them, the practice adds much confusion to the gardening world. Not that they would listen to me, but this is the reason I would like to see the practice abolished and that we stick with proper botanical names. Stop the confusion and the dumbing down of gardeners.
Photographed in author's garden.