All About Oakleaf Hydrangea

Oakleaf hydrangea has that much-sought-after trait: multi-season garden interest. Growing as a spreading, multi-stemmed shrub, this handsome native’s large (up to 8 inches long) lobed leaves add bold texture to plantings. Leaves are deep green on top, tan to whitish below, and turn rich shades of red and purple in autumn.

Oakleaf hydrangea produces showy, long-lasting, cone-shaped flower panicles starting around midsummer. The 6- to 12-inch-long panicles bear many large, sterile, white florets along with small, fertile, cream-colored florets. As the large florets age they become flushed with pink, often with deeper rose speckles, then eventually turn tan. Rounding out the seasons, oakleaf hydrangea’s peeling cinnamon brown stems are beautiful when dusted with winter snow.

Common name: Oakleaf hydrangea
Botanical name: Hydrangea quercifolia
Plant type: Deciduous shrub
Zones: 5 to 9
Height: 6 to 8 feet
Family: Hydrangeaceae

Growing conditions


  • Sun: Full sun to partial shade
  • Soil: Well drained, with plenty of organic matter
  • Moisture: Evenly moist; established plants may tolerate brief drought

Care


  • Mulch: 2 to 3 inches of organic mulch such as wood chips, pine needles, shredded leaves
  • Pruning: Prune lightly after flowering if needed
  • Fertilizer: Apply compost or soluble fertilizer as needed

Propagation


  • Division
  • Seeds
  • Cuttings

Pests and diseases


  • No serious problems

Cultivars


  • Little Honey is dwarf (3 to 4 feet) and has gold foliage.
  • ‘Munchkin’ is dwarf (3 feet) and flowers heavily.
  • ‘Pee Wee’ is a popular dwarf (3 to 4 feet) cultivar.
  • ‘Ruby Slippers’ is compact (3 to 4 feet) and the flowers turn rosy pink very early.
  • ‘Snowflake’ has striking double flowers and grows 6 to 8 feet tall.
  • Snow Queen has large flower panicles and strong branches; 6 to 8 feet.

Garden notes


  • Oakleaf hydrangea thrives in partial shade so it’s perfect as an understory shrub beneath tall trees.
  • Dwarf forms are excellent for foundation plantings and in mixed beds with perennials and grasses.
  • Both fresh and dried oakleaf hydrangea flowers are great for bouquets.

All in the family


  • Oakleaf hydrangea is a member of the hydrangea family (Hydrangeaceae), which contains 17 genera and about 240 species.
  • Other garden plants in the family include mockorange (Philadelphus), Deutzia, and Japanese hydrangea vine (Schizophragma hydrangeoides).
  • Worldwide, there are about 60 hydrangea species¬—shrubs, small trees, and vines—with the highest number occuring in Asia.

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