The general doctrine of flowering in Hydrangea is that floral induction occurs during the previous season on last year's growth and usually at the stem's terminal bud. However, Hydrangea cultivars widely differ in their relative abundance and duration of flower production. The objective of this study was to determine how developmental flowering patterns compare among different genotypes. Flowering was characterized in 18 H. macrophylla cultivars by assessing the extent of flower initiation and development in terminal and lateral buds of dormant shoots (i.e., after they have received floral inductive conditions.) Plants were managed under outdoor conditions. Dormant, 1-year-old stems were collected and characterized for caliper and length. All buds >2 mm were dissected and the vegetative or floral bud stage of development was categorized for each bud microscopically. Flower development occurred in 100% of the terminal buds for all the cultivars with the exception of `Ayesha' (33%). In contrast, lateral buds showed a wide variation in flower development. For example: `All Summer Beauty', `David Ramsey', `Kardinal', `Masja', and `Nightingale' showed high levels of floral induction (>92 % of lateral buds induced.) In contrast, `Ayesha', `Blushing Pink', `Freudenstein', and `Nigra' had 10% or fewer lateral buds with floral initials. Thus, the degree of floral induction in lateral buds varied tremendously among different cultivars. In addition, flower initiation and development were not related to the size (length and caliper) of individual buds. Thus, bud size does not appear to be a good indicator of flowering potential.
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