Oak Leaf Hydrangeas

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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Boasting both summer blooms and colorful autumn foliage, the oak leaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) is a spectacular addition to any garden. These plants at maturity grow, depending on soil and other conditions, about four to six feet, both high and wide. Tolerant of some sun, they produce lovely white flowers that fade by the autumn to a pink-brown.

Hydrangea Querifolia in the Garden

The foliage of the oak leaf hydrangeas, however, is what's especially remarkable. This turns purple, orange, and red by the time September and October roll around. Designated the state wildflower in Alabama, these shrubs are grown in New York's Central Park and numerous other major metropolitan city parks for their splendid combination of flower and foliage.

First annotated about the time of the American Revolution--specifically, by a William Bartram in the 1770s--this plant will grow in the United States in USDA zones five through nine. In lay terms that translates to the temperate region between approximately Illinois down to Houston and St. Augustine. A largely trouble-free ornamental shrub, these plants prefer partial to full sun for the most spectacular blooms.

Technically a deciduous shrub, oak leaf hydrangeas are hardy against frosts and produce enormous oak-shaped leaves, hence the name. The snow white blooms appear on stalks as long as a foot in late June, and turn to pink in about six weeks. These dry especially well. The graceful branches of mature stems shed a delicate cinnamon-colored bark in winter. The shrub propagates well by cuttings.

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