Big, bold leaves and large clusters of long-lasting flowers in white, pink, red, or blue. Summer and fall bloom. Flower clusters may contain sterile flowers (conspicuous, with large, petal-like sepals) or fertile flowers (small, starry petaled); or they may feature a cluster of small fertile flowers surrounded by a ring of big sterile ones (these are called lacecap hydrangeas). Sterile flowers last for a long time (often holding up for months), gradually fading in color.
From the southeastern U.S. Broad, rounded shrub to 6 ft. tall and 8 ft. wide, with handsome, deeply lobed leaves that resemble those of oaks, turn bronze or crimson in autumn. Elongated clusters of white flowers (to 8 in. long) in late spring and early summer turn pinkish purple as they age; fertile flowers are usually concealed by larger sterile flowers. ‘Alice’ has foliage that turns rich red in fall, ‘Snowflake’ bears double flowers, and ‘Snow Queen’ has larger flower clusters.
Dwarf varieties include ‘Little Honey’, 4 ft. tall, with white flowers and good fall color; ‘Pee Wee’, 4 ft. tall and wide, with 5-in.-long flower clusters; ‘Sike’s Dwarf’, to 3 ft. tall and 4 ft. wide. ‘Munchkin’ grows to 3 ft. tall and 5 ft. wide, with 6 1/2-in. flower clusters that open white and age to red, with mahogany red fall foliage. ‘Ruby Slippers’ is similar, but with 9-in. flower clusters. Prune after bloom. Stems and flower buds may be damaged where temperatures go much below –10°F (–23°C); in these areas, oakleaf hydrangea is best grown for its foliage.
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