Cherry Explosion Hydrangea

Hydrangea macrophylla ‘McKay’ (PP# 28,757)

Cherry Explosion Hydrangea

Hydrangea macrophylla ‘McKay’ (PP# 28,757)


How are the heights measured?

All tree, and nothin' but the tree! We measure from the top of the soil to the top of the tree; the height of the container or the root system is never included in our measurements.

What is a gallon container?

Nursery containers come in a variety of different sizes, and old-school nursery slang has stuck. While the industry-standard terminology is to call the sizes "Gallon Containers", that doesn't exactly translate to the traditional liquid "gallon" size we think of. You'll find we carry young 1-gallons, up to more mature 7-gallons ranging anywhere from 6 inches to 6ft.

How does the delivery process work?

All of our orders ship via FedEx Ground! Once your order is placed online, our magic elves get right to work picking, staging, boxing and shipping your trees. Orders typically ship out within 2 business days. You will receive email notifications along the way on the progress of your order, as well as tracking information to track your plants all the way to their new home!

Why are some states excluded from shipping?

The short & sweet answer is: "United States Department of Agriculture Restrictions." Every state has their own unique USDA restrictions on which plants they allow to come into their state. While we wish we could serve everyone, it's for the safety of native species and helps prevent the spread of invasive disease & pests. We've gotta protect good ole' Mother Nature, after all.

About Me


The Cherry Explosion Hydrangea is a wonderful cold-hardy shrub with large Lacecap blooms. These have a crown of very large dark pink blooms surrounding an inner cluster of small white blossoms. In very acid soils the blooms will be more purple. Growing 3 or 4 feet tall in most areas, this compact plant has attractive dark-green foliage that turns burgundy red in fall. Blooms appear in July on older wood, and last 8 weeks, followed by more blooms on new growth, continuing right into the fall. Grow it in borders and planters for a big bang of summer and fall blooming.

  • Lacecap flowers with huge outer blossoms
  • Bright dark pink blooms
  • In bloom from July to first frost
  • Compact mounded form
  • Good cold resistance

The Cherry Explosion Hydrangea will keep its flower buds in zone 5, and overwinter to grow new flowering stems in zone 4. It also grows well all the way into zone 9. It should be grown in rich, moist soil that is well-drained. Avoid both dryness and standing water. Pests are rare, and it is resistant to powdery mildew. In cool zones grow in more sun, and in more shade in hotter zones. Prune in spring to remove old and damaged wood, and trim after the first blooms are over to encourage new growth.

Plant Hardiness Zones 4-9
Mature Width 3-5
Mature Height 3-5
Sun Needs Full Sun, Partial Sun, Shade
Zones 4-9

Hydrangeas are definitely the most valuable of all the summer flowering shrubs. They thrive in the partial shade that most gardens have lots of, and their flowers last for week after week, bringing loads of color to our gardens exactly when we are using them most, to enjoy the summer months. There are many different varieties, mostly with rounded flower heads, but for something different and exciting, we bring you the Cherry Explosion Hydrangea. Hold on to your hats for the big bang of color it brings, and admire the unique formation of the flower heads, with huge blossoms surrounding a fascinating central core. The powerful pink color is pure dynamite when it comes to giving punch to your early summer garden, and the new stems bloom later, so that blooming is almost continuous from early summer to the first hard frost.

Growing the Cherry Explosion Hydrangea

Size and Appearance

The Cherry Explosion Hydrangea is a deciduous shrub growing 3 or 4 feet high, and reaching a little taller in zone 9, to perhaps 5 feet when mature. The thick stems have pale brown bark that peels in strips from older stems, and the large leaves have a thick texture. Foliage is carried all the way to the ground, and the almost circular leaves are 5 inches long, tapering to a short point, with a softly saw-tooth edge and pronounced veins. Their rich dark-green coloring looks great in the garden even when this plant is not blooming, and in fall the leaves often turn burgundy red, giving your garden a late color lift.

In early summer the first blooms appear, from buds at the ends of the overwintering stems. New stems that rise from the base bloom later. Each flower head is 5 inches across, and these are of the ‘Lacecap’ type. That is, each flower head has a center of many flowers without petals – 80 to 100 most of the time. These are surrounded and largely hidden by the enormous outer flowers, which are a full 3 inches across. These form a crown-like circle, with 8 to 15 blooms in it, each one a glowing, 5-petalled bowl of bright, deep pink. In neutral soils the blooms become more purple-pink, and in acidic soils they may be closer to a true purple. Exact flower color in hydrangeas is very variable, as it is affected by soil pH, sunlight, climate, fertilizer levels, and the age of the flowers. Whatever the exact colors, these blooms are always gorgeous.

Using the Cherry Explosion Hydrangea in Your Garden

With its moderate size, the Cherry Explosion Hydrangea is perfect for the front of beds, planting among other shrubs, or in planters and pots. It is wonderful for filling those difficult shady spots with beautiful foliage and gorgeous colorful blooms all summer and fall. Picture it on a shady terrace in a beautiful pot, or shining out beneath large trees at the back of your garden. Wherever you plant it, it’s going to be a big hit.


This hydrangea is completely hardy in zones 5 to 9, giving both early summer flowers from old stems, and later blooms on new stems. In zone 4 you may lose some of the flower buds on the older stems, depending on the winter conditions and how sheltered your garden is. However this plant blooms reliably on new stems, so you will see lots of blooms later in the year.

Sun Exposure and Soil Conditions

In zones 5, 6 and 7 you should plant the Cherry Explosion Hydrangea in full sun or morning sun and afternoon shade. In zones 8 and 9 plant in partial to full shade. The warmer the zone the more watering will be needed to grow it well with more sun. The ideal soil is moist and rich, but well-drained. Hydrangeas love water, but they don’t love saturated soil. Rich organic material blended into the soil when planting will both hold water and give good drainage. This plant will grow in all types of soil, but as mentioned earlier the flower coloring will vary between acid and alkaline soils.

Maintenance and Pruning

The Cherry Explosion Hydrangea has good resistance to powdery mildew, so the leaves stay fresh and green all summer. Other pests or diseases are rare. Prune in spring to remove any dead wood – waiting until you see the buds opening before pruning is the easiest way. Remove spent flowers as they die, cutting back to the new buds you will see lower down the stems. On older plants remove some of the oldest stems to the ground, or back to strong side shoots, at the same time. This will encourage new shoots from the base, to keep your bush bushy and give lots of late summer and fall blooms.

History and Origin of the Cherry Explosion Hydrangea

The big-leaf hydrangea, Hydrangea macrophylla, has been grown in gardens since 1800, shortly after Sir Joseph Banks introduced it to England from gardens in Japan. It became very popular and hundreds of varieties have been created. Thomas Buechel owns the McKay Nursery in Waterloo, Wisconsin, and he wanted to develop a hardy Lacecap hydrangea that would bloom well in his zone 5 region. He began by growing a large number of different hydrangeas together and letting them naturally cross-pollinate. He collected the seeds and grew many seedlings. These were planted in pots and grown outdoors throughout the winter. In July of 2009 Thomas looked at all the plants which were blooming and chose one that had big, colorful blooms, no powdery mildew, and attractive dark-green foliage on a rounded and compact bush. He named it ‘McKay’, and received a patent in 2017. It is released by The Conard-Pyle Company under their Star Roses and Plants label, as the Cherry Explosion Hydrangea.

Buying the Cherry Explosion Hydrangea at the Tree Center

We would love you to set off a color bomb in your garden with this great plant, sure to bring months of bloom to your beds and planters. But we won’t have these bushes in stock for long, so order now, or you could easily miss out.

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Cherry Explosion Hydrangea

Hydrangea macrophylla ‘McKay’ (PP# 28,757)