Hydrangeas make an appearance

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 26, 2011

By Darrell Blackwelder
For the Salisbury Post
Hydrangeas seem to be blooming everywhere. It is a very showy plant that is making a statement all over Rowan County.
Of all the hydrangeas, oakleaf hydrangeas are blooming in dramatic fashion. Oakleaf hydrangea, or Hydrangea quercifolia, is a white-blooming shrub with four seasons of interest that includes fall foliage color, leaf texture and bark interest. Another attribute is its toughness and ability to thrive in much dryer locations than other hydrangeas.
Danny Lauderdale, extension agent in Pitt County, says “the shrub is relatively easy to grow given the right environment. The plant can take full sun to half shade; however, they do best with shade from the hot afternoon sun. The plant thrives best with a layer of mulch to maintain a cool, moist root environment. Amending the soil in the planting area with organic matter is also beneficial. Apply mulch at a depth of 4 inches, keeping the mulch away from the stems. Don’t plant oakleaf hydrangeas in full sun.”
Landscape designers also appreciate its texture in the garden due to the size and the large, deep lobes. The edges of the leaves have serrations or fine teeth that are not sharp since the leaves are not very stiff. Healthy plants have dark green leaves with a white or brown look on the bottom due to fine hairs. In the fall before leaves drop, they turn brilliant shades of red, orange and purple through November.
With age, the stems of oakleaf hydrangeas become cinnamon-brown and the bark begins to peel. Plants usually grow up to 6 or 8 feet high in the average landscape but can reach heights of 12 feet. Width is the same as height.
Flowers open white in panicles up to 12 inches long and 4 inches wide. Individual flowers within the cluster are about 1 inch. Flower color changes from white to pink with some purple, then brown.
There are probably more than 30 cultivars of oakleaf hydrangea available. The most popular cultivars are Harmony, Alice and Alison. Alice is a vigorous cultivar with white flower heads over a foot long. A more compact, smaller cultivar is Snow Queen. It produces pure white 8-inch flower heads that gradually turn pink. Snow Flake has large, hose-in-hose double flowers that open white but have dark pink sepals. Pee Wee and Sykes are compact forms only reaching about 3 to 4 ft tall at maturity.
For more information about oakleaf and other hydrangea cultivars go to: www.hydrangeashydrangeas.com/mericanhydrangerasociety.org
Darrell Blackwelder is the County Extension Director with horticulture responsibilities with the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. Learn more about Cooperative Extension events and activities by calling 704-216-8970 or online at www.rowanextension.com