Oakleaf Hydrangea(Hydrangea quercifolia)
Hydrangeas are deciduous shrubs, highly valued for their abundant dark-green foliage and their large flower clusters which bloom in summer and fall. Most of the many kinds of garden hydrangeas come from either Asia or North America. Oakleaf Hydrangeas are native to hillsides and woodlands in the deep South and are highly valued for their attractive summer and fall foliage and large cone-shaped flower clusters. These lovely shrubs are very short-lived.
Size: Oakleaf hydrangeas typically grow from 3 to 6 feet tall. They frequently grow wider than their height, spreading by means of root runners into broad clumps of multi-stemmed, upright canes. Young shrubs look awkward and misshapen, attaining a more attractive habit after a year or so. Their irregular branching pattern and the reddish brown shaggy bark on the older canes add to their informal beauty. Their branches are quite brittle.
Foliage: As their name suggests, oakleaf hydrangea leaves resemble oak leaves. Coarse textured, they are deeply veined and have 3 to 7 pointed lobes. Typically 4 to 8 inches long and about 2 to 4 inches wide, they grow opposite each other on the stems. In late May the new leaves are gray-green with felt-like undersides, turning dark green for summer. In the fall they turn either orange, reddish-purple or brownish, and drop in mid-November.
Flower: Oakleaf hydrangeas begin flowering in late June, after their leaves appear. Their flowers are actually 4 to 12 inch cone-shaped clusters of tiny florets. Those of `Snowflake' are up to two feet long. Some of these individual florets are tight bud-like bumps, which are the fertile ones, while others in a cluster are opened into petals which are sterile. New blooms are greenish in color, changing over the season to white. As fall approaches, they often acquire a purplish or pink cast and then turn brown as they dry. The flowers will continue to hang on the shrub well into winter, providing winter interest in the yard.
Oakleaf Hydrangea Choices
`Snow Queen' is a Gold Medal winner of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and has flower clusters that are upright, less vulnerable to summer storm damage.
`Snowflake' has flattened flowers. It grows fresh petals from the center of each floret which keeps the blossoms looking fresh long after those of other varieties have faded.