Where To Plant Oakleaf Hydrangea

The optimal growing conditions for this shrub are full sun or partial shade, rich, slightly acidic soil, and good drainage. It prefers damp soil, therefore a substantial layer of mulch placed over the root zone will help keep the soil there moist.

How much sun is required by an oakleaf hydrangea?

The shadiest place in your yard can be overflowing with flowers since these incredible beauties can grow in complete shade, unlike other species of hydrangeas that require at least three to four hours of sun every day to bloom successfully.

According to Bartram, oakleaf hydrangea thrives in its natural habitat “near or on the banks of rivers and creeks, where it grows in coppices or clumps.

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Does the oakleaf hydrangea prefer shade or the sun?

It’s like asking me which of my children is my favorite to ask me which plant is my favorite! It’s a hard topic to answer, but since I don’t have to worry about hurting anyone’s delicate little egos, I’d have to say the oakleaf hydrangea is one of my favorite plants (Hydrangea quercifolia). The reason is because this plant is interesting in all four seasons. That is good since it allows me to save time, effort, and money. It rewards me in the spring, summer, fall, and winter once it has established.

The natural Hydrangea quercifolia grows to a height of six to eight feet, occasionally reaching a maximum of ten to twelve feet. The Northern Red Oak, from which it derives its popular name, may be seen in the shape of the enormous, dark green leaves, which also have silvery undersides. It is hardy in zones 5 through 9.

Cone-shaped flowers can reach a length of a foot. Initially white in color, the blossoms eventually take on a pink tinge before turning crimson as the seasons change. Single or double florets are both possible.

Although the spring and summer are lovely and lush, I eagerly await the warm days and cool nights of October and November, when the flowers turn red and the foliage takes on a variety of colours of yellow, orange, red, brown, and burgundy. The leaves last a long time in protected areas before falling to show an uneven branching structure of exfoliating bark in hues of cinnamon. It looks stunning against a white blanket of snow.

Where the summers are hot, oakleaf hydrangeas bloom best, though they like some afternoon shade. It can be planted in full sun if you live in its more northern range. You’ll receive the most stunning fall color and more blooms per square foot of sun exposure.

Unlike its mophead relatives, this shrub can survive drier soil, but it cannot endure damp feet. Plant it on soil that is acidic, moist, well-drained, and has been improved with compost or other organic material. It can be used as a specimen feature in the landscape or as a mass planting in shaded wooded regions.

Despite the rarity of the need for trimming, make sure to do it after blooming and before August. Late summer and early fall are when flower buds for the following year are formed. Old flowers can be deadheaded at any time by simply cutting them off. I prefer to keep the flowers on the shrub through the winter.

Before August, you can cut longer stems if you’re cutting blossoms for floral arrangements. After that, only trim short stems to avoid losing blossoms for the following season.

Oakleaf hydrangeas are comparatively free of pests and diseases. Another benefit, in my opinion, is that plants will continue to appear and function at their best throughout the year without the usage of any chemicals (always a last resort in my book).

Most people undoubtedly know about the double flowering variety called “Snowflake.” Up to a foot long, its creamy white blossoms are present.

“Little Honey” features springtime foliage that is golden, which later turns to chartreuse, green, and stunning burgundy red in the fall.

Oakleaf hydrangeas are a mainstay in my gardens, for sure. They are gorgeous all year round with stunning foliage, lovely flowers, and intriguing bark and are hardy in many regions of the country. They blossom in the shade, are resistant to pests and diseases, and are quite carefree. What more could we expect of a plant like this for our landscapes and gardens?

What may I put in the same bed as oakleaf hydrangeas?

When you say the word “hydrangea,” most people immediately picture the Hydrangea macrophylla mophead and lacecap varieties. These magnificent bushes are highly well-liked and frequently blossom in summer landscapes across the nation. The oakleaf species of hydrangea (H. quercifolia), a less popular variety with a distinctive appearance and texture, is a hydrangea. Oakleaf hydrangeas also produce enormous, spectacular flower clusters, much like the mopheads and lacecaps. However, that is about where the similarities between the oakleaf hydrangea and its relatives end.

The oakleaf hydrangea differs from the other members of the genus in a number of important ways.

  • Flowering behaviorOakleaf hydrangeas produce inflorescences, or long, cone-shaped clusters of flowers (flower heads consisting of a group or cluster of flowers arranged on a stem). The inflorescences are made up of both conspicuously fertile and ostentatious infertile blooms. The mophead hydrangeas, on the other hand, feature globe-shaped clusters of sizable florets. The flattened bloom heads of lacecap hydrangeas are flanked by larger male flowers and smaller female flowers.
  • Foliage

Oakleaf hydrangea foliage is big (4 to 12 long and wide, depending on the selection), lobed, and coarsely textured, in contrast to the leaves of H. macrophylla species, which tends to be moderately sized, oval or heart shaped, and smooth textured. The botanical name of this shrub, quercus folium, is derived from the Latin words quercus (oak) and folium, which describe the foliage as having a form resembling that of an oak leaf (leaf).

  • Origin The 23 identified species of hydrangea that make up the genus are primarily Asian in origin. The smooth hydrangea (H. arborescens) and oakleaf hydrangea are the only two exceptions that are indigenous to this nation. All of the states in the southeastern region of the United States, from North Carolina south to Florida and west to Louisiana, are home to the native oakleaf hydrangea.
  • Fall hues

The only plant in the genus that has any discernible fall leaves colors is the oakleaf hydrangea. The oakleaf hydrangea is still fully covered with gorgeous deep crimson to purple leaves in November and December, when the majority of other deciduous plants have lost their foliage. These leaves last well into the winter.

  • cultural prerequisites In general, all hydrangeas prefer moist, well-drained soil. The oakleaf species can endure drier soil and more sun than other species in the genus, albeit, once established.

A rounded, deciduous shrub with a mounding form from the ground up is an oakleaf hydrangea. Large clusters of blooms are supported by strong, sturdy stems above typically dark green on top and yellowish green underneath foliage. The stems have appealing tan or cinnamon colored bark that falls off in small pieces. This understory shrub is typically found growing in the wild beside streams, on forested hillsides, and in the shade of mixed hardwood trees. It is an ornamental plant that thrives in a natural or groomed woodland setting that is somewhat shaded, particularly with morning sun and afternoon shade. Some varieties are hardy to zone 5, and it is hardy from zones 6 through 9.

On the wood from the previous year, magnificent clusters of creamy white or pink flowers bloom, depending on the cultivar. While just a few varieties produce double flowers, the majority of them do. The flowers are produced in inflorescences that are 6 to 12 inches long and 3 to 5 inches broad, and they last for at least four to six weeks before turning tan or deep pink. Through the autumn, the blossoms provide interest to the plant by drying in situ.

The list that follows, while not exhaustive, describes a variety of oakleaf hydrangea choices, as well as their typical sizes and floral arrangements. While a few varieties can reach heights of 12 feet or more, the majority of cultivars are medium-sized, with an average height of 5 to 8 feet. There are several compact cultivars that grow to a height of 4 feet or less and with proportionately smaller leaf and flower clusters available for gardeners with tiny gardens.

  • 12′ tall by 12′ wide is “Alice.” This is a wise choice for bigger gardens that have the space for a shrub of this size. The enormous white blossoms eventually turn tan in the late summer after maturing to rosy pink. The State Botanical Garden of Georgia’s gold medal award for 2000 went to “Alice.”
  • Alison is 8 to 10 feet tall. Despite being comparable to “Alice,” this cultivar is a touch wider and has inflorescences that are held more upright. By the end of the summer, the huge white bloom clusters have turned pink and are now tan.
  • Harmony is 10′ broad and tall. This variety has clusters of enormous, many, double, sterile blooms. Branches can bow under their weight. This cultivar, which is extraordinarily lovely but not frequently seen in nurseries, may be a challenge due to the flowers’ weight.
  • 6′ tall by 6′ wide is “Amethyst.” Dr. Dirr created a small cultivar whose blossoms change from white to rose. As they become older, “Alice” and “Amethyst” both develop extremely deep pink inflorescences.
  • 5 to 6′ tall by 5 to 6′ wide is the “Gatsby Gal.” This, along with the next two choices, are from Proven Winners’ 2016 release of the Gatsby series. Flowers on the shrub ‘Gatsby Gal’ are upright, giving the impression that they are larger than the shrub’s relatively small size.
  • Gatsby Moon is 6 to 8 feet tall and 6 to 8 feet wide. The inflorescences are composed of closely spaced, extremely full double flowers similar to those on “Harmony,” as previously mentioned. Instead of turning pink with age, the petals become white to green.
  • Gatsby Pink is 6 to 8 feet tall and 6 to 8 feet wide. The enormous, protracted flower heads quickly transition from white to a deep shade of pastel pink.
  • Queen of Hearts measures 6.5″ high by 9″ broad. This cultivar was created by the shrub breeding program of the U.S. National Arboretum through the hybridization of the cultivars “Snow Queen” and “Pee Wee,” the same cross that also gave rise to the cultivar “Ruby Slippers” that is detailed below. The blossoms start out white and gradually turn a rich pink hue.
  • 6′ tall by 6′ wide is the “Snow Queen.” ‘Snow Queen’ can withstand brighter conditions and retains its single-flowered inflorescences more upright than other varieties. The 2012 Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit was given to it.
  • 7′ tall by 7′ broad is “Snowflake.” This cultivar, like the others that won the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit in 2012, has a longer bloom season. It has double hose-in-hose flowers on very long (15 inch) spikes that stay on the plant for a very long time. The blossoms progressively turn pink as they deteriorate, then light tan.
  • Little Honey measures 4′ high by 5′ broad. The golden yellow spring foliage, a sport of “Pee Wee,” gradually darkens to chartreuse green in June and then becomes red in the fall. For optimal results, give it morning sun and afternoon shade. Compared to other oakleaf hydrangea species, the white blooms’ 5 to 6-inch long, cone-shaped inflorescences are diminutive.
  • ‘Munchkin’

4.5′ broad by 3′ high. The shrub breeding program at the U.S. National Arboretum in McMinnville, Tennessee, created Munchkin. It is the perfect option for modest home landscapes because of its compact form and dense plant habit. The flowers start out white and progressively change to a medium pink color.

  • Pee Wee is usually 5 feet tall and 4 feet wide, but they can get bigger. Until quite late in the growing season, this upright, compact variety retains its deep burgundy and purple leaves before losing them. The leaves typically have 3 to 7 lobes and are on average 5 inches long. In the late summer, the flowers become tan.
  • “Ruby Slippers” are 3.5″ high and 5″ broad. This mounding, semi-dwarf cultivar was created by the shrub breeding program of the U.S. National Arboretum through the crossbreeding of the cultivars “Snow Queen” and “Pee Wee.” The flowers begin as white but quickly change to a delicate pink hue, which later in the summer intensifies to rosy red.
  • Sikes Dwarf is 2 to 4 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide. This compact collection works well in container gardens as well as smaller areas. The sterile florets in the flower clusters, which gradually turn light pink as they ripen, conceal the fertile blooms. ‘Sikes Dwarf’ has an asymmetrical spherical shape and an open plant habit.

The soil that Oakleaf hydrangea prefers has a pH of 5.06.5 and should be organic, fertile, well-drained, and slightly acidic. Once planted, it is drought hardy, though it does need water in extremely dry conditions. Effective drainage is crucial. Although the plant prefers moist soil, wet feet are intolerable.


In either complete or partial shade, this shrub can flourish. But it functions better when it receives at least a half-worth day’s of sunlight or more, which results in a better floral show, stronger stems, and more vibrant autumn foliage. Some varieties can tolerate a sunnier location. On the other hand, plants under heavy shadow will produce fewer blossoms but bigger leaves.

In general, Oakleaf Hydrangea trimming is little to nonexistent. Pruning should be done soon after the shrub flowers if it needs to be shaped or shrunk. In late summer, this shrub produces bloom buds for the following year. Or put another way, it grows on aged wood. Any other time of the year will result in the loss of the flowers for the following year when pruned.

Pests The only insects that occasionally harm this plant are spider mites and aphids. Deer will nonetheless munch on this plant, especially the sensitive, young spring foliage, so either use deer repellent or put up a physical barrier to protect it.


Cuttings of the shrub’s stems can be used to multiply it. Layering is another method of plant propagation that can be used because the branches are low to the earth.

When used as a solitary specimen, a backdrop for smaller shrubs, bulbs, or perennials, a part of a mixed border, a deciduous hedge, or as part of a mass planting, oakleaf hydrangea is a multipurpose shrub that is bold yet graceful.

If there is a drawback to oakleaf hydrangeas, it is that a cautious gardener can find their enormous, rough-textured foliage intimidating. Rest certain that the foliage complements plants with smaller leaves extremely well. For instance, the contrast created by evergreens’ finer needles or scaly branches is appealing. Boxwoods’ smaller, more compact leaves and more formal round shape contrast nicely with the more relaxed shape of oakleaf hydrangeas. Oakleaf hydrangeas go nicely with taller ferns like ostrich or cinnamon ferns as well as shorter grass-like plants like liriope.

Easy-care Oakleaf hydrangea is particularly useful in the landscape since it provides year-round appeal. It has an immediate effect in the spring when its striking foliage first appears. Large, persistent clusters of creamy white or pink blooms stand out against the dark green leaves in the summer. Many cultivars develop to a medium pink or deep rose color over time. The oakleaf hydrangea especially shines in the fall with its deep, burgundy/purple foliage that lasts all the way through the winter. The pale brown or brownish dried flower heads provide more appeal. The tan bark’s exfoliation adds a new tactile dimension to the snowy scene in winter.