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Hydrangeas: Plant This or That

May gardens in the Chesapeake watershed bring hydrangeas.  Blue, white and pink big leaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla) are beautiful ornamentals, native to Asia. Two hydrangeas native to the southeast are the oakleaf (Hydrangea quercifolia) and the wild or smooth hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens ‘Anabelle’).  Today, the oakleaf!

Oakleaf hydrangeas are truly a four-season plant.  Pale, minty leaves slowly unfurl in spring.  White panicle flowers bloom in May.  The panicles then gradually transform to blush and brown. Once fall comes around, the large oak shaped leaves turn the most magnificent maroons and reds.

Oakleaf is an easy grower in our area.  They will do well in shade, part shade or part sun.  They even grow in full sun, once established though some shade is ideal.  In the garden, it’s somewhat unique to have a large shrub that flowers well in shady conditions.  These oakleafs require little care and make for great cut or dried flowers. They also provide habitat for butterflies, other insects and songbirds.

These shrubs can get quite large – 8 feet tall and wide. If you don’t want something so large, look for the dwarf variety which is commonly available. Use it as a focal point, a hedge, a foundation plant or to anchor the back of a garden bed.


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We want you to be as excited about planting Chesapeake natives as we are. “Plant This or That” gives you a native alternative to popular plants. Other posts highlight really fabulous fauna native to the Chesapeake.

Nuts for Natives, avid gardener, Baltimore City admirer, Chesapeake Bay Watershed restoration enthusiast, and public service fan.

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