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Hydrangea ‘Mariesii Variegata’ – Variegated Lacecap Hydrangea

Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Mariesii Variegata’ is a lacecap hydrangea noted for variegated leaves which are creamy white on the edges with lighter shades of green on the interior. It’s the subtle shades of green I find most beautiful.

Originally from China and Japan, this particular variety has been in cultivation for a very long time. William Robinson, in volume 68 of his illustrated garden journal, wrote: “In the old variegated Hydrangea the centre of the leaf is green, margined with…pure white or whitish variegation…”.

Volume 68 of Robinson’s journal was published in 1905, and even he describes variegated hydrangeas as ‘old’. There are plenty of references to variegated hydrangeas in British literature of the 19th century.

You will see this particular hydrangea offered online under a couple of different names. Look for the white margins and ‘Variegated’ in the name and this is the one.

I think it is the word ‘Mariesii’ that throws people off, as there is a non-variegated version available for sale, ‘Mariesii Perfecta’. If retailers are casual with the names, you can see how it all turns into a confusing mess.

You will find this hydrangea listed online as ‘Mariesii’ or simply ‘Variegated Lacecap’ hydrangea.

Preventing leaves from scorching in variegated hydrangea

I believe lacecap hydrangeas are more beautiful with the open habit typical of being grown in relatively heavy shade. While shade will make many plants, especially perennials, lanky and floppy, it can work to our favor with lacecap hydrangeas. Importantly, by siting your variegated hydrangea in shade, you help prevent leaf scorch.

Macrophylla hydrangeas are prone to the leaves turning brown on the margins, slowly curling to a crisp. This is called leaf scorch, and variegated hydrangeas are especially susceptible. Shade in the afternoon prevents leaf scorch. Flowering will be reduced in shade, but the main point with variegated hydrangeas is the foliage.

A perfect scenario would be morning sun until around 11:00 or so and then shade thereafter.

How come sometimes hydrangeas don’t flower?

There is a common theme with many hydrangeas: lack of flowers at the northern limits of their winter hardiness. It’s an issue with the Endless Summer cultivars such as ‘Twist-n-Shout’ and it is an issue with ‘Mariesii’ variegated hydrangeas.

Variegated hydrangeas, like all of the macrophyllas, flower on old wood. In zones at its northern limit, the plant may survive but the buds are often killed by cold weather. Over and over one reads about gardeners who feel let down when their hydrangeas that are supposedly winter hardy do not flower. I understand the frustration.

If you have a macrophylla hydrangea and it dies to the ground in winter, it will not bloom. Even Endless Summer varieties, which bloom on both old and new wood, will lose their first huge flush and may not flower until well into summer.

I recently took a look at Michael Dirr’s patent for the afore-mentioned ‘Twist-n-Shout’. Michael Dirr, who has a deservedly impeccable reputation, is very clear in reporting winter hardiness as zones 5-9. Yet many online retailers offer ‘Twist-n-Shout’ as hardy to zone 4.

Offering a plant whose roots will survive in zone 3 or 4 but blooms on old wood is setting up people in a way that borders on cruel. The answer is field trials in colder areas to establish whether the blooms can reliably be expected to survive winter. No favorable microclimates, either. I’m talking about trials with plants unprotected in the fields, winds whipping through in January.

For you gardeners at the northern limits of growing Hydrangea macrophylla, microclimates can work in your favor. If you want to grow Mariesii variegated hydrangeas, then look for sheltered places protected from wind. You may have to be creative.

If it were me, I’d look for a warm wall with deciduous trees overhead. You want to protect the plant during winter and protect the leaves during summer.

Genus/speciesHydrangea macrophyllum ‘Variegata’ syn. Hydrangrea macrophyllum ‘Variegated Mariesii’
Common name(s)variegated hydrangea
Of noteflower buds may be killed by winter at northern limit – leaves scorch easily in sun – labeled as ‘Mariesii’ or ‘Variegated’, look for the tell-tale white margins on the leaves
Fall colorinsignificant
Water requirementsaverage, high
Soil qualityrich, well-drained
Suggested use(s)cottage gardens, formal, mixed borders/perennial beds, shade gardens, understory
Hardiness zone(s)5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b
Deer resistantno
Deciduous or evergreendeciduous
Flower colorblue, pink, purple/violet
Bloom periodmid to late spring, summer
Exposureafternoon shade, filtered light, full shade

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