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Oakleaf Hydrangea for All Seasons

Oakleaf hydrangea, hydrangea quercifolia, is the official state wildflower of Alabama and can be found in every part of the state. I have heard that there are more oakleaf hydrangeas in Alabama than anywhere else on earth. I believe it. I have plenty of them in the woods surrounding my house, and I planted none of them.

It's a great, low maintenance shrub for year round interest. There are a number of beautiful cultivars, but all of mine are the native shrub. Its white summer blossoms persist for months and turn deep rose in late summer. It is deciduous with oak leaf shaped foliage that turns wonderful shades of red and burgundy in the fall. Even in winter the plant provides interest with its dried seed heads, arching structure, and the peeling bark of its stems and branches.

Oakleaf hydrangea grows four to eight feet tall and wide, in zones 6 to 9. It does best in partially shaded, naturalized areas and has average water needs. It may need pruning every few years, and you may want to remove the old seed heads before the new growth starts in the spring. Mine seem to do well even if I don't do this, but I am lucky my neighbor Betty likes this chore and usually snips mine while she is doing hers. She is a good neighbor.

Propagation is easy by root ball division, which is the quickest way to a new plant, or they can be grown from seeds or stem cuttings. 

If you can't find oakleaf hydrangea growing in your area, come to my state for a visit, turn into the first woods you see, and no doubt there will be one growing right in front of you!

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Reader Comments (13)

Now Deb, don't torture me like that. I don't have any big shady spots where I could plant an oakleaf hydrangea, and I love them to pieces! Thanks for the info on my "pink" centered daffodil. I love those too!

May 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRobinL

I'm with RobinL, I've even paid big money to ship them here to no avail. They just don't like our freezing cold winters. Or maybe it's the wet springs? Anyway, I must just admire from afar.

Christine in Alaska, zone 3ish

May 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChristine B.

Deborah , I am in zonal denial! I planted one last year, the double "Snowflake". It has budded out, so it did live through the winter, we will see if it flowers. The colour last fall was amazing, and worth growing just for that!

Deb, I am living vicarioiusly through your blog. You seem to have so many of my favorites from the old Atlanta garden. I absolutely love oakleaf hydrangea! I'll be on the lookout next time I'm in Alabama, since they are the OH capital of the world. :~D I was in NC last June and spotted a huge specimen from the road. I begged my husband to pull over. It was a stunning beast, and daughter stood in front of it for photos. The place turned out to be an old mansion turned public park/garden. What a pleasant walk we had!

May 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFloridagirl

They do well here in southern New England and they really are beautiful, even out in the sun. Yours are beautiful.

May 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLaurrie

Hi there Debs

I just wish that hydrangeas could tolerate my cold winters better. The have such great attributes and are worthy to have in any shady garden due to the seasonal interest but alas not in mine. They must be an incredible sight in your wooded area when in full bloom.

:) Rosie

May 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRosie

They are beautiful. I have never seen this variety of hydrangea around here. Are they all white, or they come in different colors?

May 13, 2010 | Unregistered Commentervrtlaricaana

Hi Deb,

I absolutely love hydrangeas. How wonderful that they grow wild in your state. I love how the leaves turn a beautiful red in the fall.

May 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNoelle / azplantlady

We've got one ready to be planted! It was on our "must have' list when we planned a new semi-shady planting area. It is such a beautiful shrub. We got the 'Snowflake' cultivar, but I didn't realize we could drive a couple of states south and dig up a wild one. Yours are beautiful!

May 13, 2010 | Unregistered Commentervillager

Oakleaf Hydrangea is my favorite hydrangea. I agree that it's a wonderful four season shrub. I have four Pee Wees across the front and a Dayspring on the east side of the house. I didn't realize that so many grew in Alabama or that it was the AL state flower. How wonderful that you have them growing wild in your yard. Do you see much difference between your wild ones and the cultivars?

May 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSweet Bay

Just ran across your blog. I'm in Pelham and have added you to my blog roll. Great photos.


May 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJeff

I thought you and your readers might be interested in this interactive version of the USDA hardiness zone map that focuses on Alabama:



May 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPaul

Hi Deb,

How do you deal with deer? I for now have 3 oakleafs but all 3 have been almost nibbled to the ground last year and they've come beautifully into leaf but no blloms of course and I hope that this year I'll get to see some of that burgundy afterall. Otherwise love your garden and find many inspirations in your posts. I have started planting a woodland garden on the edge of my part of the woods 3 years ago and can't wait to see the plants getting bigger... I have 5 macrophyllas so far and 3 of them (the same variety, don't know which one) are blooming beautifully with really strong pink blooms that look absolutely stunning in the woods. I was sceptical whether my woodland is too shady for hydrangeas to bloom but now I also have paniculatas blooming in the same area which is under canopies of very old oaks and beeches, amazing!

July 1, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSuska

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