The oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) has been the signature plant of the Georgia Native Plant Society since the organization’s inception in 1994, so it is a fitting choice to kick off the organization’s new Plant of the Year program as the pick for 2000.
In its natural habitats, the oakleaf hydrangea can be found throughout the Southeast along stream banks, hillsides and in open woods. But it is an accommodating garden plant, making itself at home in a wide range of conditions. Though its natural preference would be for moist, well-drained soil, once established, it is fairly drought tolerant. It will reward the gardener with blooms even in a good bit of shade and appreciates protection from the hot afternoon sun. The oakleaf hydrangea rarely will experience any insect or disease problems, and it needs little maintenance once established. Pruning need only be done to maintain its shape or size and should be done immediately after flowering, since buds are set in early fall. Though a Southeast native, the oakleaf hydrangea has proved hardy from USDA Hardiness Zones 5 through 9.
When placing the oakleaf hydrangea in the garden, allow space for its 6- to 8-foot height and similar spread. It is a welcome addition to a shrub border or can hold its own as a specimen plant. It is also well suited for a planting at woods’ edge where the large, coarse foliage will contrast nicely with finer-textured plants, such as ferns, Solomon’s seal, mountain laurel or Leucothoe. The oakleaf hydrangea is readily available in the nursery trade, with several named cultivars (including ‘Alice’, ‘Harmony’, ‘Roanoke’, ‘Snowflake’, and ‘Snow Queen’) also available.
Prepared by Mary P. Tucker for the Georgia Native Plant Society.
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