Oakleaf hydrangea, or hydrangea quercifolia, is a shrub that natively grows in the southeastern United States. When mature, these plants reach about seven-feet tall and eight-feet wide, with a rounded figure. Its leaves are serrated, with three to seven lobes; in fact, the Oakleaf hydrangea gets its name because its leaves resemble oak leaves. The leaves grow between four and eight inches long; they are green and smooth from above and lighter and downy underneath.
Hydrangea quercifolia can grow in anything ranging from full sun to full shade, although it prefers full sun. It also prefers moist, rich, well-drained soils that are slightly acidic, but it is tolerant of dry and wet sites. They can also grow in soils with average fertility and acidity levels ranging from neutral to slightly alkaline, although the foliage may become chlorotic in soils with too much alkalinity. The plant grows in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones five through nine, that is, in zones where the average minimum temperature is between -20 degrees Fahrenheit and 30 degrees Fahrenheit. It grows best, however, in Southern states like Louisiana, Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi.
This plant is used in gardens both as a focal point and to accent other flowers, or as a border to walkways or water features. It is an asset in gardens because it flowers in the early summer months, has a bold year-round texture and an exfoliating range bark, and is tolerant of wet sites. These assets, however, may be outweighed by some of the plant's faults. The Oakleaf hydrangea is a slow-growing plant, especially in its youth. It produces dead fruiting stalks and requires frequent pruning because it needs a non-straggly growth habit. Also, sometimes the plant's flowers are so large that they tend to droop, which may be unattractive to some.