When looking for a tough, versatile native shrub for Northeast Florida, it’s hard to beat the Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia). Growing in full sun or shade, this shrub is fairly drought tolerant but prefers a rich, moist soil. With a fast growth rate, it can quickly reach heights of 6-10 feet and widths of 6-8 feet. It makes an excellent border shrub or can be used in masses or as a landscape specimen.
The leaves are large, resembling that of an oak and are borne on hairy stems extending from the base. Blooming occurs in the spring or summer, with
large white to pink panicle flowers growing at the end of branches. One of the best attributes of this plant is its impressive fall color which can be hard to find in our region. The bark of the shrub has a peach color and peeling texture so even when the leaves drop in the winter, there is some interest. Even the flowers can persist as hard, lacey brown “skeletons” of their former glory through the colder months..
Oakleaf Hydrangea does not have any major diseases or pests of concern. You may see some leaf spotting or insect chewing throughout the year, but this is tolerated by the plant and does not detract from its beauty. It can grow to be a bit leggy so pinching back the fresh growth at the end of the stems can promote additional branching. If pruning is needed, do so after flowering but it is best to give this plant room to grow and resist any urge to cut it back.
If interested in this shrub it can be found at many garden centers and nurseries and the UF/IFAS Clay County Master Gardeners will be selling some at our annual plant sale on Saturday, September 8th from 8:30 am until 2:00 pm. There will also be thousands of other plants available as well as outside vendors, workshops, and food trucks.
For more information about Oakleaf Hydrangeas visit http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fp259 and for updates on upcoming UF/IFAS Extension Clay County events visit www.clay.ifas.ufl.edu and follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ClayCountyExt and https://www.facebook.com/UFIFASClayMG/.