The Best Hydrangeas – A Multi-Part Series for Homeowners… Part 5 – Oakleaf Hydrangeas (Hydrangea quercifolia) and How to Grow Them

Oakleaf Hydrangeas are yet another under-utilized Hydrangea in backyard landscapes.

A mature Oakleaf Hydrangea in summer

Like the smooth Hydrangea ‘Annabelle’, Oakleaf Hydrangeas usually look pretty dismal in a nursery container. This is unfortunate, because most homeowners pass them by and miss out on a truly beautiful plant.Oakleafs are most comfortable in the woodland border where they can blend in with natural surroundings.They are a large, rustic looking plant that produces magnificent white cone-shaped flower heads over Oak leaf shaped foliage. The white flower heads turn crimson as the season progresses. Think of them as the Bigleaf Hydrangea’s big burly cousin.Unlike other Hydrangeas, they have interesting fall foliage color and even an exfoliating bark that gives them winter interest.

Care and Maintenance of Oakleaf Hydrangeas

Oakleaf Hydrangeas can take a wide range of conditions but ideal is morning sun with afternoon shade.

The blooms of Oakleaf Hydrangeas fade to deep pink in the late season

The woodland border usually works well.The only thing that you really should avoid is planting your Oakleaf Hydrangea in boggy soil.It cannot tolerate “wet feet” for too long.The large size and features of the Oakleaf Hydrangea make it seem out of place in well-manicured gardens.It looks more at home as part of the natural woodland or as part of a casual relaxed garden.

Oakleaf Hydrangeas usually do not need pruning or trimming.They are best left to grow on their own.Give them plenty of space so you won’t be tempted to trim them.They are typically hardy to Zone 5 but may experience some winter bud burn in far northern gardens.This will inhibit flowering.If you are in a region in Zone 5, you may want to protect your Oakleaf from winter wind.

The best Varieties of Oakleaf Hydrangea

You will not find a wide range of varieties of Oakleaf Hydrangea in the nursery, but here

oakleaf Hydrangea quercifolia 'Snowflake'

The superior flower heasds of Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Snowflake’

are a few cultivars you may run into.

‘Snowflake’ (Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Snowflake’) – This is our favorite.It has the most impressive flowers of the all the Oakleafs and blooms much longer than others.It’s about 5-8 feet tall and wide at maturity.

‘Alice’ (Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Alice’) and ‘Snow Queen’ – These two are interchangeable and not quite as impressive as ‘Snowflake’.The blooms do not last as long, but they are both very common in nurseries. Both are still impressive plants, so don’t be too disappointed if you can’t find ‘Snowflake’and need to go with one of these.

Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Snow Queen’

For the smaller garden, there are a few compact varieties, namely ‘Pee Wee’ and ‘Sikes Dwarf’.Both claim to stay 4 feet tall and wide and have similar flowers to ‘Alice’ and ‘Snow Queen’.

So, if you have a garden that borders the woods, or you just want a natural feel in your landscape, try one of these rustic beauties and enjoy the year-long interest.

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