From the Sperry Garden – October, 2007

I have a lot of shade around our house. That’s the price you pay for building beneath giant pecan trees. However, the advantages far outweigh the problems.

One of the special challenges shade creates is in finding shrubs that can thrive in it. Certainly my hollies help me a lot, but so does this great pal, oakleaf hydrangea. I have 12 or 15 of them sprinkled throughout our landscape, and none of them receives any direct sunlight at all.

These floral bracts will continue to develop over the next several days until they’re bright white and beautiful. Meanwhile, the plants’ leaves will continue to grow, dominating their corners of our gardens. They’re dark green all summer. By then the bracts will have faded and dried to interesting tan heads that many gardeners harvest and use in dried arrangements. I leave mine in place for a while, then I tidy things up and allow the plants to grow out around them.

Fall color of this great plant is rich, crimson red and it doesn’t occur until December. In the winter I can see the plants’ shaggy bark after the leaves have fallen. Then, before very long, it’s time for them to leaf out and start the whole cycle over again.

Oakleaf hydrangeas grow to 4 to 5 feet tall and 5 to 7 feet wide. They do best in bright shade, and they’ll grow better if they’re in moist, highly organic planting soil. You’ll want to hand-water yours for its first couple of summers, as its large leaves will suck up more water than the other plants in its surroundings. Oakleaf hydrangeas are suited to any part of Texas, but they do better where summer humidities are a little higher.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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