Oak leaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) is a favorite of native plant gardeners for many reasons. If you’re looking for a shrub that is hardy, produces beautiful flowers, can grow in the shade, and has lovely fall colors, look no further. Here are just a few of the reasons why I love this shrub:
#1 The large white flowers (in the shade!!)
These flowers are quite simply gorgeous! They can get 6-10 inches long and have clusters of small white blooms. The flowers start out small and green, turn white, and then as they age they get a pinkish hue.
I love how the flowers eventually dry out and persist on the plant. So, when winter rolls around, you’ve got some really cool dried flowers in your garden.
Let’s face it, gardening in the shade can get a little, well, boring. The most colorful plants and flowers like the sun. However, the oak leaf hydrangea is an exception. While it likes morning sun, afternoon shade is a must for the best looking plants.
#2 It’s native!
Native plants have adapted very well to the climate that they grow in, so if you live in the native range of this shrub (TN, AL, FL, GA, LA, MS, NC, SC, TN or DC) then give it a go! It’s hardy, drought tolerant, has a pretty fast growth rate and best of all – no serious pests or diseases to worry about.
#3 Stunning fall colors
The leaves of this plant can get pretty large — up to 10 inches in length. They resemble an oversized oak leaf (hence the name of the plant). Not only are they cool because of their size and shape (they’re oppositely arranged), but in fall the leaves change into lovely hues of red, purple, and brown.
Description and characteristics of Oak leaf hydrangea
Oak leaf hydrangea is a mounding, perennial shrub that can grow to heights of up to 10 feet and nearly as wide (up to 8 feet generally). It produces branches from the base of the shrub, creating a mound-like shape to the plant. It is hardy in zones 5b through 9, but requires the warm summers to really perform well.
Flowers begin in mid to late spring and continue through summer. Flowers are produced on the growth from the previous year, so you’ll need to be cautious when pruning. Only prune after the flowers are done – so that you don’t cut back too early and prevent the shrub from flowering.
The flowers are large and make nice cut flowers — they dry well too.
This hydrangea prefers semi-moist soil that drains well, but it is drought tolerant. In the wild, it is often found along stream banks or along the edges of forests. It prefers mostly shade, but can tolerate morning sun well.
The leaves resemble large oak leaves with deep lobes and an almost palmate appearance. Leaves can grow to be very large – nearly 10 inches long and they grow on hairy stems. Leaves are oppositely arranged. In fall, the leaves change color from green to rich reds and browns.