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Is oakleaf a bad idea?

Posted by mrskaline 5 (My Page) on
Tue, Oct 13, 09 at 18:20

Hi all...I'd love to plant an oakleaf hydrangea and would like your opinions if you think it will work or if I should choose something other than a hydrangea. Here are the details...

- zone 5a (central Indiana)
- fairly protected site; planting location would be on the north side of my house in a corner created by the house and a 6' wood fence. The south side of neighbor's house is approx. 16'ish feet away.
- I believe it will be entirely shaded all day from the shadow of the house. As it grows (assuming it grows!) it may eventually extend past the shade then may get some afternoon sun
- Soil is hard Indiana clay but I can amend if necessary
- Moisture is probably more on the dry side if I had to choose, but I have hose
- Should be plenty of space for it to fill in the entire corner (up to approx. 8' in diameter, then will have to prune if it gets bigger)

I'd love to plant this but I'm a little worried about my zone as I think zone 5a is marginal. If this shrub is not ideal, any suggestions out there? Also, I'm not too familiar with the different oakleaf varieties so perhaps one would work better than another.


Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Is oakleaf a bad idea?

  • Posted by whaas 5a Milwaukee (My Page) on
    Tue, Oct 13, 09 at 21:00

There are plenty of other shrubs you could plant but if you really like the Oakleaf Hydrangea than go for it. As you mentioned above, they need a protected site for zone 5.

The only thing you can't really count on is the flowers. It you have a harsh winter I believe the flower buds die off below -15 degrees.

Also count on slow growth in your clay soil.

RE: Is oakleaf a bad idea?

i am in the northern suburbs of chgo. ~~ i have two oakleaf shrubs planted next to the northern wall of our house (no sun)

i also have two planted at the same time (two yrs. ago) on the east side (several hrs. of sun)

all four look absolutely wonderful!

from my reading & asking questions at the nursery i came away with this:

i improved my soil with: composted manure, spanghum peat moss & pinebark fines ~~ then planted them so that they would be elevated ~~ they are very finicky about having their feet wet; and, IF i understand everything i've been told, if they don't make it thru our brutal winters, it is actually NOT the brutal winters ~ but our wet & soggy springs ~ excellent drainage is key to their survival ~

hope i said that in a way that is understandable???

good luck, phyl

p.s. the chicago botanical gardens are very helpful 1-847-835-5440

RE: Is oakleaf a bad idea?

Hi - I fell in love, when I first saw one
....hope to get another someday.....
All, I know is once planted - they hate to be moved.
That is how I lost mine. They are exquisite in my
opinion!!! Good Luck. tina_2

RE: Is oakleaf a bad idea?

Interesting. I don't find them any more difficult or resistant to transplanting than any other type of hydrangea. Perhaps it was the timing or damage to the root system that caused the problem.

FWIW, if I was limited to only one hydrangea in my garden (heaven forbid!!), it would be an oakleaf without question. However, I do not live a similarly cold zone so have no firsthand experience on how well they do in zone 5.

RE: Is oakleaf a bad idea?

  • Posted by mxk3 z5b/6 MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Nov 14, 09 at 12:48

I'm in zone 5b/6, and my oakleafs perform beautifully. They are planted in a shady area on the south side of the house, so are protected from the winds from the north in the winter, though they do catch some wind from the west. It was not easy to get them established in this particular spot, and I had a fair amount of die-back the first two seasons, even though I protected them with burlap screens. I'm not sure if it was because of the not-so-great soil (which has improved quite a bit over the years) or because they are "tricky" to get established here (that's what I've heard, but not sure if that's actually true, though).

In any case, I no longer protect them and don't have to water them as much, and they are gorgeous, just gorgeous! They suffer very little die-back now, but they are now mature/established. I have noticed that the two bushes that catch more sun out of the five in that grouping do produce more flowers and have better fall coloring - a beautiful rich red (the other three in less sun turn an "eh" deeper burgundy color) and are a little lusher in terms of foliage.

Even if they never threw a flower, I would still grow them for the outstanding foliage effect. :0)

I recently purchased a couple Pee Wee dwarf oakleafs, and I plan on protecting them over winter because they are right next to the driveway, and I'm afraid the snow throwing will crack the branches - mature oakleaf branches are rather brittle and can break easily, just bumping into a branch the wrong way sometimes causes a branch to snap, so dumping snow on them will more than likely wreck them (not because of me, but because DH pays no attention to much of anything let alone aiming the output of the blower away from the bushes....)

RE: Is oakleaf a bad idea?

  • Posted by ditas z4b-5 Iowa (My Page) on
    Fri, Nov 20, 09 at 12:54

Hi mxk3 - How old are the ones you don't have to protect? My Alice is now a good size (4' all around & tall/3rd season). Snow Queen & Pee Wee were planted May'08 ... none bloomed this '09 due to decimating Winter & upside-down Spring but OK, as they are all thriving & beautiful!!! ;) I posted pics of all 3 in your coloration ? post.

Last Winter all were protected w/ a chicken-wire surround, dumped w/ leaf mulch ... observed only a few old canes that suffered. Alice has out-grown her wire fence ... am wondering if she can now be left, to fend for herself? I still intend to provide a tent for still smallish SQ & PW (located in N-foundation bed, a corridor of the NW wicked winds). PW has sprawled wider now has out-grown his wire cage, as well. I might just drive some stakes, dump some leaves & top w/ burlap. A local nursery said ... just mulch heavily at the base. You're a bit warmer than where I am ... what do you think?
TIA mxk3

Gardengal148 - I'm with you, if OL Hs can have all the character traits of Paniculatas!!! I guess we can't *have our cake & eat it too* huh?! LOL *No pains no gains* doesn't always work either ... only patience ... Ma Nature controls, even in right growing zones!

RE: Is oakleaf a bad idea?

  • Posted by mxk3 z5b/6 MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Nov 21, 09 at 14:17

Ditas: Regarding the ones I don't protect, most of them are at least 7 years old, and one is 4 years old, I believe.

RE: Is oakleaf a bad idea?

I would agree that getting the Oakleafs going is a slow process. I have one Dwarf type, was tagless so no name. The Nursery guy said it was a dwarf, should only get up about 5-6 ft tall and wide. I did a cage around it, covered wire with old, clear shower curtain to break the wind for a couple winters. I piled lots of shredded real oak leaves around the base for mulch. My ground is a bit dry there, so watered regular if we got no rain. It is on the NW side of house, exposed to the west wind all winter.

Blooming was a bit erratic the first couple years, the buds may have gotten wind dried or frozen, not sure. Usually had some bloom, but might only be one that year.

About the 4th year, it seemed to suddenly take off, with new sprouts, gaining height and fullness. I quit doing anything special for protection then, just keep it mulched well each fall and spring with the oak leaves.

Early blooming is very pretty, and usually a nice effort. Cold and wind don't seem to bother it anymore. Did real well this spring, even with the long, cold winter of 08-09.

Not always a tremendous flowering, but nicely covered with good size panicles, which I can accept because it is in the shade until about 3P. I really like the foliage, leaves are so attractive among smaller leaved shrubs beside it. Fall color of bright red is tremendous, even if weather is warm or cold. Still has most of his red leaves right now. It was my first Hydrangea. Well worth the little extra time and work to get it going here.

RE: Is oakleaf a bad idea?

  • Posted by ditas z4b-5 Iowa (My Page) on
    Sun, Nov 29, 09 at 13:57

Thank you very much for the responses to my ??? mxk3 & goohors!!! ;) ... I went ahead & got another roll of those plasti-coated garden wire fencing as several of my real Garden Divas & minor Divas have grown & despite bundling, past season's cages got a bit too confining.

Goodhors - I think a couple of years ago I got the idea from your post on, how you wind-protected your beautiful Oakleaf H ... BTW wasn't it finally ID'd as Vaughn's Lily?

Any way I followed your lead & wrapped Ol H-Alice's wire cage w/ an insulating plastic sheet & dumped leaf-mulch to the top ... might just proceed with the same for younger SQ & PW this Winter ... now that this is their 2nd Winter.

November gave us a better than average warmer days(upper40s-60s) ... had to do incremental layering of their Winter protection ... the nurseries here, are in agreement, as far as when to finally finish up ... *wait for the few days of hard freeze* ... after T'g Day as a rule of thumb in our zone. 9 out of my 12 Divas were done last week I'll just wrap cages w/ landscaping fab as windbreakers ... gets a bit hectic & crazy w/ all the holiday to-dos!!!

Thanks again very much for tips & reassurances ... Happy Holidays ahead!!! ;)

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