Content Detail

Oak-leaved hydrangea is an all-season shrub. The large, dark green leaves resemble oak leaves. In fall they change to deep burgundy or red. In summer the large cone-shaped flower clusters open white then turn a purplish-pink and change to brown persisting into winter. The older bark is cinnamon-brown in color and peels to create a texture that gives this shrub winter interest. It forms colonies from a shallow root system.

  • Family (English) Hydrangea
  • Family (botanic) Hydrangeaceae
  • Tree or plant type Shrub
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale North America
  • Size range Small shrub (3-5 feet), Medium shrub (5-8 feet), Large shrub (more than 8 feet)
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8, Zone 9
  • Soil preference Acid soil, Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, Road salt
  • Season of interest early winter, midsummer, late summer, early fall, mid fall, late fall
  • Flower color and fragrance Fragrant, White
  • Shape or form Irregular, Mounded, Upright
  • Growth rate Moderate, Slow

Size and form:

Oak-leaved hydrangea grows 4 to 6 feet high and wide at maturity in an upright and irregular form. 

Native geographic location and habitat:

It is native to the southeastern United States.

Bark color and texture:

The bark is cinnamon-brown and peeling, adding winter interest.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, texture, and color:

This shrub has simple, opposite leaves, lobed like an oak leaf that are 3 to 8 inches long. They are dark green in summer and change to red or burgundy in fall. 

Flower arrangement, shape, and size:

Showy, fragrant, panicle clusters bloom in midsummer and last into fall, opening white, gradually changing to pink and then brown. The dried flower clusters can add winter interest to the landscape. 

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

The fruit is a dry capsule and not ornamentally important. Although the remains of the dry flower heads that surround them do provide winter interest.

Plant care:

Oak-leaved hydrangea grows best planted in moist, well-drained, slightly acidic, organic rich soil and prefers sun to part shade. Mulch it to keep roots cool and moist. This shrub flowers on old wood therefore can be pruned after flowering. Weak, brittle canes are easily broken in wind and ice so remove winter-damaged stems as soon as leaves begin to emerge in spring. Forms colonies from a shallow root system.

List of pests, diseases and tolerances:

It is susceptible to sunscald, chlorosis in alkaline soils, and winter dieback, but is tolerant of salt spray.

Alice oak-leaved hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Alice’):

Grows to 8 feet high. Produces white flowers which mature to pink in 12 to 14 inch clusters. The leaves turn burgundy in fall.

Little Honey™ oak-leaved hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Little Honey’):

Growing 2 to 3 feet high, this shrub has yellow leaves which turn orange-red in fall. The white flowers are in 5 to 6 inch clusters

Pee Wee oak-leaved hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Pee Wee’):

This cultivar grows 2 to 4 feet high, producing white flowers clusters 4 to 5 inches long. Leaves turn  red to red-purple in fall. 

Munchkin oak-leaved hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Munchkin’):

It has a compact habit at 3 to 4 feet high and the foliage turns a rich mahogany-red in fall.

Ruby Slippers oak-leaved hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Ruby Slippers’):

A compact, 3 to 4 feet high upright shrub with white flowers that change to deep rose. Leaves will be a mahogany-red fall color.

Sikes Dwarf oak-leaved hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Sikes Dwarf’):

This compact cultivar grows 2 to 3 feet high. It’s blooms are white in 3 to 4 inch long flower clusters that fade to pink. In fall the leaf color is red to red-purple. 

Snowflake oak-leaved hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Snowflake’):

This cultivar grows 5 to 8 feet high and it’s white, double flowers bloom in long, 12 to 15 inch clusters. Leaves become red-purple in the fall.

Snow Queen™ oak-leaved hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Snow Queen’):

It grows 4 to 6 feet high with large, dense, 6 to 8 inch long white flower clusters that mature to pink. Fall color of the leaves is red-bronze.


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