Oak Leaf Hydrangea – Garden Favorites

Over the years I have grown many plants. I have a bit of a collectors attitude toward my garden and pick out unique plants as much as possible. Some of those plants haven’t done well for me, but other plants have simply been amazing. I thought it would be a good idea to go back and look at some of those plants that have been consistently good garden plants. Today I’m starting with the oak leaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia). The oak leaf hydrangea is an amazing plant that can tolerate shade to part sun here in Tennessee.

The botanical name Hydrangea quercifolia when broken down describes the oak leaf hydrangea perfectly. The first word is obviously hydrangea which is classifying the plant in that family. “Quercus” is the oak family and “folia” means “leaf”. Together they make quercifolia which would mean oak leaf and reflects the shape of the leaf. It’s not the most original name ever but it does effectively describe the form of the leaf among the hydrangea family.


Oak leaf hydrangeas like a rich well drained soil and are best grown in zones 5-9. I’ve seen oak leaf hydrangeas planted in the shade and in nearly full sun so I know that these are tough plants.

What I like about Oak Leaf Hydrangeas:

  1. Tough
  2. Tolerant of shade/sun
  3. Are not bothered by deer
  4. Beautiful panicled flowers are very showy when in bloom

Would I plant Oak Leaf Hydrangeas again?

Definitely!!! These are one of the easiest and best performing plants in my garden. They are showy when in bloom and can provide a beautiful native backdrop when not in bloom.

What plants can you plant with Oak Leaf Hydrangeas?

I have planted other hydrangeas, hostas, heucheras, hellebores, ferns, brunnera, and Solomoan’s Seal nearby.

What should you know before planting Oak Leaf Hydrangea?

Curious about hydrangeas? Try this book from Michael A. Dirr! (Amazon Aff. Link)

They can get very big! Make sure you have an area capable of handling the variety you are planting. Otherwise it will outgrow the space or overtake nearby companion plants.

How to Propagate Oak Leaf Hydrangeas:

I have two methods that I use to propagate oak leaf hydrangeas.

  1. Layering
  2. Seeds

I have successfully rooted oak leaf hydrangeas from cuttings but my success rate is much higher with the other two methods.

Layering Oak Leaf Hydrangea

Layering is where the branch is laid on the soil surface and held down by pinning it with another object. Eventually the part of the hydrangea touching the ground develops roots and can be removed from the plant and potted on its own. Layering is very easy to do with oak leaf hydrangeas since many of the branches tend to grow low to touch the ground.

Growing Oak Leaf Hydrangea from Seed

Seeds are not genetically identical to the parent plant but if it is a species hydrangea that is just fine. Collect the dried seed head in the fall (or when they turn brown) and put them in a brown paper bag. After a while the seeds will release, store them in a cool dry place over the winter. In the spring you can sprinkle the seeds on a flat of seed mix and little oak leaf hydrangeas will sprout within a couple weeks. Keep the seeds moist with a spritz of water daily and keep covered under a humidity dome until germination. Afterward grow them at least until they have their second set of leaves and pot them up into separate pots.

If you have an area that is part shade to sun and it can contain a plant with an 8′ diameter than an Oak leaf hydrangea might be just the thing! There are smaller varieties available for smaller spaces so don’t let the size scare you off. Just make sure you always have the right plant for the right place!