Learning Center


A Tough Beauty

There are many plants that capture our imagination and make us want to plant large swaths throughout our landscape. Sometimes these treasured plants look amazing but don’t fare well over time. This plant, the invincible Oakleaf Hydrangea is another story!

Oakleaf Hydrangeas have a totally different look to them than the traditional mophead or lacecap hydrangeas. The large multi-lobed leaves that resemble large oak leaves give this hydrangea it’s name.  The interesting shape of the leaves as well as the size gives this plant a striking texture in the shade landscape.  In mid-Spring, cream colored blooms emerge in large, long panicles at the tips of the long branches.  The blooms can be as much as a foot long!  As the season progresses, the blooms turn to a blush color and then to a nice light tea color, and will remain throughout the fall and winter if not pruned off.

The attributes of the Oakleaf hydrangea do not end here!  In the fall, the leaves turn red and purple and hang on until as late as December.  The exfoliating bark of the plant then takes center place in the winter landscape.

And the care is easy!  These plants prefer part-sun but do very well in shady areas, and can take more sun than the traditional hydrangeas.  The Oakleaf hydrangea also can withstand drought conditions once established.  Boggy soil will stress the plant, so make sure your area has good drainage.  If needed, prune just after blooming, by the end of July as with traditional hydrangeas.  If you wait any longer, any pruning will remove next years’ blooms, as these plants bloom on last years’ wood. Water as needed and fertilize with a good slow release balanced fertilizer.

Since Oakleaf hydrangeas can get pretty large; as much as 6 ft. by 6 ft., and in some cases even larger, make sure you space them appropriately.  As with most plants, they will be more successful if they have enough room to grow.  There is a dwarf variety if you are looking for a smaller plant; which is called PeeWee.  The mature size of the PeeWee is about 3 feet wide and 3 to 4 feet tall. Don’t be alarmed if you go to buy one and it looks like a twig!  Just make sure that there are several branches coming up for the base and that the leaves are healthy.  This plant really takes off after planting and will amaze you with it’s resilience!