San­dra Thomas, Camp Hill, Qld

Gardening Australia - - MAILBOX -

I have had a white hy­drangea (photo 1) in my gar­den for some time and took two cut­tings not so long ago. They grew and thrived, I planted them out and now they look like pho­tos 2 and 3! Although the leaves look sim­i­lar to a com­pact white hy­drangea, the habit and flow­ers are to­tally dif­fer­ent. Can you ex­plain what has hap­pened?

El­iz­a­beth Swane says You have ac­tu­ally grown a lovely au­tumn-flow­er­ing plant called Chi­nese rain bell (Stro­bi­lan­thes cu­sia syn. S. flac­cid­i­fo­lia). It strikes read­ily from cut­tings, fea­tures trum­pet-like flow­ers and grows to 1.5–2m tall. This ac­ci­den­tal prop­a­ga­tion has its mer­its, as it looks very happy among the other plants in your gar­den. The lush fo­liage is not dis­sim­i­lar to hy­drangea, so it would be easy to mis­take when tak­ing cut­tings.

As for your white hy­drangea, you could try again by tak­ing hard­wood cut­tings this win­ter when the plant loses its leaves. Pieces should be pen­cil-thick, 10–15cm long. I have a lovely Chi­nese rain bell, which I prune hard in win­ter to main­tain a com­pact size and shape. It likes a semi-shaded spot, with shel­ter from hot af­ter­noon sun. You don’t of­ten see this plant for sale in nurs­eries, as it’s a bit lanky in a small pot, but it is pop­u­lar among gar­den club mem­bers who grow and share it via cut­tings. It’s in the same fam­ily as shrimp plant, oys­ter plant and many other beau­ti­ful flow­er­ing plants.

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