by Cindy Watter
The oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) is a native North American plant. Unlike the familiar varieties, it is interesting looking all year long. The lobed leaves turn rosy red in the fall, and the branches turn bronze and peel a bit. It likes some sun, but will flourish in mostly shady areas. It can grow ten feet tall, and its ten-inch long, spiked creamy flowers are attractive. If you want a statement, this is one. The bonus is the oakleaf hydrangea requires, at most, half of the water conventional hydrangeas demand. After ten years, I only water mine when it has a visible droop, which is maybe once a week in summer. And in case you are worried about pests – it has none.
I learned that buds grow on the previous year's growth, so don't prune back too much. You should prune them after they bloom, but you can leave the flowers on for a while, because even when they are dried out they look good. Then you can cut them off, and do a real pruning in the early fall. Take a good look at the stems – if you see buds forming next to a leaf, prune above them.
I have become a real fan of the oakleaf hydrangea. It needs little care and even less water, which is perfect for our increasingly dry climate. It is also quite elegant and adds curb appeal to a yard with no lawn.
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Photo credits: Cindy Watter
UCMG Napa County http://napamg.ucanr.edu/files/262307.pdf
UCMG Sonoma County http://sonomamg.ucanr.edu/Plant_of_the_Month/Hydrangea_quercifolia/