Oak Leaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia)

I’ve been a fan of oak leaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea quercifolia) for a long time. The large oak shaped leaves and white flowering panicles are two of its best traits but in the fall its color changes are very nice too. The leaves change through a range of colors from the year round greens to the autumn golds and reds. Our oak leaf hydrangeas are fairly young plants. One was purchased as a full sized plant in a pot and the other was a discount plant in a small plastic wrapped container filled with sawdust. I figured it wouldn’t make it for a number of reasons: it was small, had almost no root system, and of course it was a discount plant. To my pleasure and surprise I was wrong. The little oak leaf hydrangea is thriving in our side border garden in almost full sun.
Oak leaf hydrangeas are native plants to the United States and are easily adaptable to many soils here in Tennessee. I’ve been told that if you go easy on the mulch they reseed readily but unfortunately I have yet to see any baby hydrangeas running around…frankly if they were running around I would be worried, but they can form colonies with their stolons.
How to Propagate Oak Leaf Hydrangea
Oak leaf hydrangea can be tricky to propagate but I do know of a secret to tell you, but first let me tell you what I do to propagate these great native shrubs.
My successful cuttings have come from stem tip cuttings that have 3-4 nodes spaced relatively close together. This basically means that I took cuttings that were between 3-5 inches long. I treated the cuttings with rooting hormone and placed them in sand as my potting medium then waited about 8 weeks before I checked them. I didn’t cover them but covering the cuttings with a plastic bag may keep them more moist. The hydrangea had quite a few roots and after the 8 weeks I was able to pot it up. 
I promised I would tell you the secret I’ve discovered to rooting oak leaf hydrangeas and here it is: small leaves. Remove all the leaves of the stem tip cutting from the plant before sticking it in your medium except for one small immature leaf at the tip. Don’t even be tempted to leave two leaves or one large one, just a small immature leaf. It works great!
For more plants and information on propagation from my garden: Plant Propagation.

14 thoughts on “Oak Leaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia)”

  1. My two original Oakleaf Hydrangeas were suckers from under plants of friends. After 3-4 years, established plants begin to throw suckers. I've never noticed seedlings, just suckers, which I dig and plant elsewhere.

  2. It's in full sun eh? Most hydrangeas prefer some shade. But if it's doin good where you have it, I guess it don't mind.

    (Have you ever thought about putting all your great propagating info into a book? I'd buy one!)

  3. Sob, we love oakleaf hydrangeas and have tried to grow them here numerous times without success. They seem to be foolproof for everyone else but never for us. Such gorgeous plants!!! Anyway, thanks for the great propagation tips. And Dave, we have to agree with TC: How about writing a book on plant propagation based on your experience? Great idea!!!

  4. I am glad you figured out the secret and shared it. I've had no luck with propagating oakleafs-of any cultivar. But I noticed that I again have seedlings though so that is a good thing-at least until I run out of room. Then I may save some for the plant swap. I'm looking forward to it already as I have so many plants put aside.

  5. Nell Jean,

    I've used that strategy before for other plants but so far our Oak Leaf Hydrangeas haven't suckered too much. Being impatient for more plants I'll just propagate!


    They are very neat. Sometimes the leaves will change differently within the same leaf.


    They grow quick but can be controlled by hard pruning if needed!


    Oak Leaf hydrangeas are one of the few that can tolerate a variety of solar conditions. I haven't really considered a book but thanks for the idea! I still have a lot of plants to propagate before I would feel comfortable putting together something like that.


    That's just awful that they aren't growing for you! They should be OK up in PA. Maybe one day on the book, when the girls get to school might be a good time to write!


    I'll happily swap for some more Oak Leaf hydrangeas! I can think of several places they would be perfect for in our yard. Try the propagation this spring and let me know how it goes!




    I haven't tried much with layering. Most of our plants are too young to have a lot of suitable branches for layering. I guess that's one of the problems with buying a blank slate for a yard!

  6. I too love love love oak leaf hydrangeas (and all other hydrangeas). I've been successfully propogating them for years and giving them to my friends & family. My oakleaf I got 2 years ago as a tiny stick is a nice sized shrub now. I'm hoping to propogate many cutting next spring to add to the edge of the woods for color and beauty.

    I also have good luck propogating hydrangeas by simply taking a stem, bending it down to touch the ground, burrying it a bit and placing a rock over it. The next year I dig up the plant and move it elsewhere.

  7. I have tried propagating my Oakleaf for about two years and have had no luck. I feel like I am killing off the only one I have. I think I have to give up because I love mine so much I don't want to kill it…

    Would anyone be willing to sell??


  8. Jessica,

    The secret is to take a cutting with immature leaves. That usually means in the spring. The bigger leaves lose water too fast. If your Oak Leaf Hydrangea is flowering go easy on the mulch and you may end up with a few little ones eventually.

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