Old oakleaf hydrangea leaves not falling

LinelleFebruary 10, 2014

This is my first post here. I'm usually over at the Kitchens forum.

My small front yard was completely re-landscaped in early 2011. I have a oakleaf hydrangea in a sheltered spot that gets shade most of the day but sun later in the day, which it seems to tolerate just fine.

In 2011 it produced many beautiful blooms. :)

In 2012 I pruned it incorrectly, removing the old wood. The foliage was lush, but no blooms. :(

In 2013 I tried to prune with more restraint. Again lush foliage but no blooms. But wait...in September two lone (but lovely) blooms appeared), filling me with hope and joy. A landscaper friend said basically don't cut the plant back at all.

So, here it is 2014. All the old wood remains and lots of buds are forming. Can't wait to see what happens.

My question is, so many of last year's leaves remain. The coldest temps are mostly over. We've been in a drought but received a lot of rain this past week. Do I leave the leaves? Will they fall off eventually?

BTW, when I check my zip code for my hardiness zone, I get anything from 8 to 9b. It really doesn't get much colder than the upper 20s here (Santa Rosa, CA), and only one or two days a year.

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Some of my oak-leaf hydrangeas still have some leaves on them and I am in the Atlanta area. We've had a very cold winter this year compared to the last 20 or so (low temp wise).

Some leaves may remain on the plant until the new leaves start emerging. I can't speak for your area but I wouldn't rush winter. It would be terrible for leaf break and then another cold snap gets those tender leaves.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2014 at 8:38PM
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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

I have had winters in which the leaves remained but eventually they dried out and self destructed.

Try not to fertilize it too much. Once in Spring should do for the whole year since these plants do not eat like roses do. You can add minor fertilizers like coffee grounds, liquid seaweed or liquid fish but stop in July to help force dormancy in the Fall. Oakleafs go dormant later than the other mopheads for me in Z8.This year I noticed them still green thru most of December but now they either have no leaves or have browned out leaves.

And you can prune safely after the blooms open, up until near the end of June. A friend of mine who wanted the blooms pruned one several years ago in mid July and I lost bloomage the following year. Flowers can be deaheaded at any time you want; just be careful if it is July or later.


This post was edited by luis_pr on Tue, Feb 11, 14 at 13:49

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 12:55PM
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Thanks for the replies.

luis, as per the recommendation of my landscaper, the only feeding its getting is the dressing of arbor mulch breaking down. I'm getting a ton of foliage with very large leaves.

I'm not sure why I would prune after the blooms open. To have cut flowers? How far back would I prune? So basically any time between blooming and the end of June I could prune for shape and size?

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 4:07PM
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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

Prune when you have a reason for doing it. Otherwise, hydrangeas do not need to be pruned. For example, prune if some stems are growing out of sync with the rest; prune stems that cross or to bring more sunlight into deep shaded areas of the shrub; prune if the stem may cause safety concerns, etc.

The 'safe' time when you can prune (IF you want to prune) hydrangeas that bloom on old wood is after they have bloomed (so you can enjoy the blooms) thru the time when they begin to develop new flower buds (which is around the months of July-August). In northern states, flower buds begin to develop around August-ish while in the southern states, it is in July-ish.

So yes, if you prune any time between blooming and the end of June, you will not be cutting off next year's flower buds.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 8:51PM
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Oakleaf hydrangeas are known for retaining foliage well into winter and the milder the climate/the higher the zone, the longer they hold on to them. In my area, oakleafs hold their old foliage ALL winter and only drop them as the new growth emerges in spring. As I grow several dwarf cultivars in containers, I tend to remove the leaves manually (too impatient!) on these but allow the inground selections to drop theirs naturally.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 6:18PM
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luis, that's pretty much what my yard gal told me. So that's what I'm gonna try this year. It was really exciting to get those two late blooms last fall. I know there's hope!!!

gardengal48, I need to be patient. The leaves are still beautiful and it fills the corner in.

Thanks everyone for your help!

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 11:31PM
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It's going nuts. Blooms busting out everywhere, colossal leaves. This is just a portion of the plant and what happens when you don't prune old wood! I will need to trim back a bit for size by the end of June.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2014 at 11:27PM
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springwood_gardens(6B Pittsburgh)

An awesome adaptation to an environment far away from the native for an oakleaf! Mine is still just a few sticks and is just beginning to leaf out. Might need to move it (Alice) to a slightly more sheltered location from deer and cold as it has not grown more than a couple feet in three years.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 7:33AM
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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

Wow, nice. Mine are a few steps behind yours and few steps ahead of Springwood_Gardens. Most blooms are in the broccoli stage with the ends of the panicles turning white last weekend.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 2:48PM
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"broccoli stage" LOL

That's exactly what I thought they looked like, weird broccoli. Since the plant arrived blooming in 2011 and hadn't really bloomed again till just now, I didn't really know what the nascent blooms looked like. I thought they were mutants. It's such a vigorous, healthy plant. Even when it didn't bloom, the leaves, esp. when they turn crimson in the fall, are just beautiful.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 4:57PM
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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

I know. There is a crimson/purple stage that is quite nice. I have missed the leaf color change completely sometimes in the Fall because I forget to walk by those shrubs so, gee, I guess I just HAD TO buy some more and plant them in another location... Hee hee hee

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 6:30PM
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My plant is right next to my front door. In fact it's encroaching a bit into the entryway, but it's too pretty right now. After blooming I'll trim it back, but not yet, since I can still squeeze around. :)

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 7:01PM
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springwood_gardens(6B Pittsburgh)

Linelle, you might want to research or note what type of oakleaf that is. Some can grow 10-12' around. If you ever decide to switch to a smaller or dwarf variety (which there are a lot of), it would require much less maintenance and be more ideal for an entry way.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2014 at 10:49AM
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Springwood, I don't think I'm inclined to switch this guy out anytime soon. Maintenance is minimal and leaves and flowers are just breathtaking. This plant at dusk, just before the light is gone, is amazing. I tried to take a picture but it was just too grainy.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2014 at 6:26PM
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