Go Native with Oakleaf Hydrangeas

By: Julie Day
White blooms on oakleaf hydrangea.

Beautiful white blooms on native oakleaf hydrangea.

During midsummer, the showy pink and blue pom-poms of bigleaf (or mophead) hydrangeas try to overshadow their equally beautiful and even more versatile cousin, the oakleaf hydrangea. Native to the southeastern U.S., oakleaf hydrangeas offer year-round beauty with their seasons of blooms, foliage, and peeling bark.

Not only are oakleaf hydrangea gorgeous, they’re low-maintenance and easy to grow. Here’s what you need to know about growing native oakleaf hydrangeas in your yard or garden.

About Oakleaf Hydrangeas

Oakleaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea quercifolia) are very similar in care and cultivation to other hydrangeas, but they offer several distinct advantages over their mopheaded cousins, including:

  • Native Plant: Oakleaf are one of the few hydrangeas native to the United States.
  • Cold Hardy: Oakleafs can tolerate colder weather, and can be grown farther north, than other hydrangeas. They’re winter hardy to zone 5.
  • Oakleaf blossoms turning pink.

    Oakleaf blossoms turning pink.

  • Drought Tolerant: Oakleaf hydrangeas also hold up better to dry weather and sandy soil than other types.
  • Sun Tolerant: Oakleafs can also handle more sun than bigleaf varieties.
  • Fall Foliage: The dramatic, large leaves of oakleaf hydrangea are named because of their similarity to the elegant leaves of oak trees. In the fall, those leaves turn the most gorgeous shades of red, orange, and burgundy.
  • Peeling Bark: On mature oakleaf hydrangeas, the bark often peels to reveal a rich, dark brown layer, which is pretty during the winter.
  • Long Blooming Period: Oakleafs bloom from late spring through early summer, and if you don’t cut them, the spent blossoms often dry right on the plant and last into late fall.
  • Excellent Cut Flowers: All hydrangeas make good dried flowers, and oakleafs are no exception! Cut and dry them for year-round arrangements.
  • Insect and Disease Resistant: Oakleaf hydrangeas are nearly problem free from disease and pests.
Red fall foliage on oakleaf hydrangea.

Gorgeous red fall foliage on oakleaf hydrangea.

Types of Oakleaf Hydrangeas

Oakleaf hydrangeas come in two forms – single blossom and double blossom. Single blossom varieties include ‘Snow Queen,’ ‘Alice,’ and the dwarf-sized ‘PeeWee.’ Double blossom varieties such as ‘Snowflake’ have multiple florets and boast the longest bloom season.

All oakleaf hydrangeas are white, but the blooms often turn subtle shades of pink or brown as they age.

Peeling bark on oakleaf hydrangea

Peeling bark gives winter interest to oakleaf hydrangeas.

Oakleaf Hydrangea Growing Tips

For the most part, you can have success with oakleaf hydrangeas by following the growing tips outlined in our article on How to Grow Hydrangeas. However, here are few extra secrets to success with oakleafs:

  • Daytime Sun and Afternoon Shade: Like other hydrangeas, oakleafs will grow in varied light conditions, making them popular in shady gardens. However, a little extra sun will make the fall foliage much more colorful. Try to plant them in an area that receives full morning sun, with a little afternoon shade during the hottest part of summer.
  • Summer Heat: Although they’re hardy to zone 5, oakleaf hydrangeas bloom best when there’s some summer heat.
  • Pruning: Oakleaf hydrangeas bloom on last year’s growth, so save pruning for midsummer after they bloom, so they have time to grow new branches to bloom next year.
  • Beware of Root Rot: All hydrangeas need well draining soil, but the oakleaf needs extra good drainage to prevent root rot. Keep them watered, but don’t let them get soggy.

Further Information

Print


Comments

Please Leave a Comment

16 Comments on “Go Native with Oakleaf Hydrangeas”

You can follow comments to this article by subscribing to the RSS news feed with your favorite feed reader.


  • jim martel Says:
    May 27th, 2016 at 7:00 pm

    Having a problem getting our oak leaf hydrangea to blossom.
    We live in Western New York, the past winter was mild, the plant gets good sun. It’s blossomed in the past but hasn’t in the last few years. Any advice?



  • Jan Huszczo Says:
    November 2nd, 2015 at 9:33 pm

    I just moved into a house in the Detroit area. I have 8 Oakleaf Hydrangeas. I have never had them before. I do have a couple questions. I think the previous owners may have planted them for sole purpose of selling the house. I like the placement and the idea of the beautiful colors. The branches are scraggly and the leaves look sickly. Do I need to fertilize the plants? If so, when would I fertilize and what kind of fertilizer would I use? Should I be concerned with the leaves and their spots and curling edges? I need guidance…Thanks



  • Joe Zak Says:
    October 15th, 2015 at 2:57 pm

    I have a beautiful oak leaf hydrangea that is out growing the area it was planted in. This year I need to cut it back and move it. When would be the best time of year to do this? It is getting full western exposure right now. Would it do well with eastern exposure? I live in the Raleigh area.
    Thank you so much.
    Joe Zak



  • Linda Says:
    September 26th, 2015 at 11:36 am

    Planted 2 decent sized oak leaf hydrangeas 2 summers ago. Planted them near base of porch where they get more mid and late day sun. They remained gorgeous with green leaves and showy white blooms the whole summer. Unknowingly pruned. Of course, the next summer they were leafy, but no blooms. Did not make that same mistake again. This summer, they leafed out and blooms flowered, but never turned white and started to turn brown within a couple of weeks. Leaves became spotted and some orange and red tinging throughout summer. Had an Oakleaf Hydrangea at a previous home. Got morning sun. Grew nearly free of pruning and any form of maintenance for years and was an absolute beauty spring to fall, so I’m a bit dumbfounded. We live in central TN. A lot of clay in soil and I must say we have had an unusually wet spring and summer and early fall. Any thoughts?



  • Tim Says:
    September 1st, 2015 at 8:00 am

    What is root structure of oak leaf hydrange? Does it produce roots larger than the plant and do they invade an area larger than their circumference?



  • lisa Sheraw Says:
    August 29th, 2015 at 9:08 am

    We had several oak leaf hydrangeas planted last spring. They are covered with spots. We have been treating them for a fungus with little results. They also have not produced any flowers. We’ve had a very wet season and our soil is mostly clay. Will they come back spot free next year?

    Lisa Sheraw



  • Amy Evans Says:
    August 25th, 2015 at 2:00 pm

    I planted two oak leaf hydrangeas and last year one died. They are in a shady spot- Cincinnati soil- which is more clay and alkaline – but pretty good in general. I was gone for a month this summer so do not know if the lack of rain was an issue. The second bush seems to be dying- any thoughts? I have watered it only- weeded around



  • KP Says:
    August 22nd, 2015 at 9:52 am

    I’d like to know if an oak leaf hydrangea will grow in a shady Dallas garden.



  • Tammi Sharpe Says:
    August 20th, 2015 at 9:10 pm

    Will a oak leaf hydrangea grow in central Texas? Just 15 minutes north of Austin.



  • Barbara Saunders Says:
    July 4th, 2015 at 7:29 pm

    Linda Bates- Re little to no bloom – you may be cutting off the buds when you prune your oak leaf hydrangea. Try skipping the pruning this year, then only prune right after flowering in the future.



  • Linda Bates Says:
    July 4th, 2015 at 3:43 am

    i live in the south of England and have (I think) an Oakleaf Hydrangea. It produced one flower one year about 4 years ago but since then, despite health and vigorous production of leaves, it has never again flowered. I cut it back every spring and it grows back again without a problem.



  • Pat Rakowski Says:
    June 12th, 2015 at 8:26 am

    I planted a oakleaf hydrangea about 7 years ago, it needs to be moved. How and when do I do this?

    Pat



  • Marie Says:
    June 10th, 2015 at 3:43 pm

    Just planted two oakleaf plants and noticed that the bottom leaves have dark spots on them.. what is it?

    Marie



  • Rick Erickson Says:
    May 21st, 2015 at 2:52 pm

    Can we grow oakleaf hydrangeas on the central coast of California. We are only three miles off the Pacific Ocean, so temperatures never get real warm, and don’t vary a great deal throught the year. Our soil is very sandy



  • Susan Trimble Says:
    May 6th, 2015 at 9:04 am

    Our oakleaf hydrangeas stared out the spring looking beautiful with lots of new growth. Then, they died. What could have happened to them? We had one in Arkansas that got very little care and it was gorgeous.



  • Nancy Says:
    July 2nd, 2014 at 7:21 pm

    Why did our Oakleaf hydrangeas never turn white this year? Their blooms were a pinkish color. We live in Zone 8


We want to hear from you! In addition to posting comments on articles and videos, you can also send your comments and questions to us on our contact page or at (800) 946-4420. While we can't answer them all, we may use your question on our Today's Homeowner radio or TV show, or online at todayshomeowner.com.