deciduous, flowering shrub, Hydrangea quercifolia, Oakleaf hydrangea, Ravenscourt Gardens, white multi-flower plumes, William Bartram
A few years back I decided to see how Oakleaf hydrangeas would do in my garden here at Ravenscourt. This has been a very successful experiment. I wish I had more room to plant more of them actually. I admit I should have given mine more room but I don’t have any place for large shrubs.
The Oakleaf hydrangea – Hydrangea quercifolia, is a deciduous flowering shrub with white multi-flower plumes. The bark is rough and as it ages become woody. They prefer some shade, especially from the hot afternoon sun. In its native environment is an understory plant. It is native to the Southeastern United States found in woodland area and along streams from N. Carolina to Tennessee and south to Florida and Louisiana. The meaning of it’s name is kind of fun. Hydrangea (hy – DRAIN – juh) from the Greek ‘hydra,’ (water) and ‘aggos,’ meaning vessel, goblet, or jar – referring to the cup-shaped fruit. The Greek mythological multi-headed creature called the Hydra lived in the waters of the swamps, quercifolia (kwer – se – FOH – lee – uh) Latin meaning “leaves like the oak tree”
I am finding it does well if in part-shade here in Houston. It is said to bloom best where there are hot summers. It looks great in naturalistic and cottage style gardens. But could work anywhere that you wanted a very striking plant that has seasonal interest.
The Oakleaf hydrangea was first noted by the eighteenth century botanist William Bartram while exploring the Carolinas down to the panhandle of Florida in 1770’s. I have one of his books in my library Bartram Travels and Other Writings. I do mean to read it! I have always been attracted to explorers, even when I was young. I can’t imagine anything more interesting than finding new plants.
The growth habit of the Oakleaf Hydrangea is mounding and a single plant can grow 10+ feet tall with an equal spread.
The leaves are actually my favorite part. They go from bright green in the spring to beautiful shades of burgundy and gold in the fall. Oakleaf hydrangeas have few pest problems if any. And once established they are drought-tolerant but should be watered during long dry spells, especially the first few years.
My hydrangea is in need of pruning. I have it tied at the moment, wanting to wait until it is done blooming. I have read it is best to wait until the plant is at least 5 years old before doing harsh trimming. Mine is 3 years old. It is best to trim it in June or July so you don’t ruin next year’s blooms. It can be trimmed down to nearly the ground if you would like to revitalize the plant or control its size. This hydrangea is a fast grower and will return to full height in a season or two, so it is best to plant it where it can take its natural shape.
For more information about these beautiful shrubs and how they will do in your zone; check out Dave’s Garden Database.
Thanks for this! I’m sitting here in my shady garden having coffee wondering what I can plant. I love them, but had forgotten about them.
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Laurin Lindsey said:
Good Morning Kay : ) You will really enjoy this amazing plant! I am going to try to see if I can get some cuttings to root when I trim it later this year. If I am successful I will give you some.
Bug Woman said:
Hi Laurin, I have this lovely plant in my north-facing garden. It’s taken a while to establish, but the bees really love the pollen, so I’ve stuck with it. After our mild but rainy winter here in London UK it has started to really grow well this spring. I’ll send you some photos when it flowers!
Laurin Lindsey said:
I would love to see photo’s! I read it doesn’t bloom as profusely in England as it does here in the southern US. The bees have been crazy for it lately. I can hear them through the bathroom window. It is a happy sound for me!
I love the oak leaved Hydrangea. I grow it in a big pot and it always looks good.