Oakleaf Hydrangea, Hydrangea
Oakleaf hydrangeas are one of the easiest and showy shrubs to grown in the shady garden. The large blooms are impressive and oak-leaf shaped foliage often lights up with bright colors in the fall.
Oakleaf hydrangeas grow best in partial to full shade. Direct morning sun is good but plants do best with some protection from the hot afternoon sun. Plants prefer average to high fertility, humus rich, moist and well drained, although you’ll find oakleaf hydrangea to be tough in varied soil conditions once established. Plants tolerate much drier conditions than their related florist type hydrangeas and do not like soggy conditions.
They can be included in shrub or mixed shade beds, used as specimens or informal barriers, or planted in groups. Plants are semi-evergreen so expect to lose some foliage in the winter; however the peeling bark that is revealed is attractive. Plants produce blooms on the previous year’s growth, so do not prune in spring; wait until plants have finished blooming to hand prune.
H. quercifolia (oakleaf hydrangea) is a mound-forming native shrub that spreads by suckers. It has attractive exfoliating bark and large, oak-like leaves. Plants produce large football shaped clusters of white flowers. ‘Alice’ can reach 15-feet tall and produces large clear white blooms. ‘Snowflake’ and ‘Harmony’ are varieties that offer double blooms. 'PeeWee' is a dwarf variety that only reaches 3- to 4-feet tall. ‘Ruby Slippers’ offers up pink blooms on dwarf 4-foot pants.
Features: showy spring flowers; attractive habit, foliage and bark
Habit: mounding or spreading, deciduous shrub or tree
Hardiness: zones 3–8
Notes: Traces of cyanide are found in the leaves and buds of some hydrangeas. Wash your hands well after handling these plants. Avoid burning the clippings, because the smoke can be toxic.