Grow in Northwest Missouri

The deciduous shrub, oakleaf hydrangea, Hydrangea quercifolia, which is native to the southeastern United States, has long been one of my favorites. But upon moving to my husband’s family farm in Missouri thirteen years ago, I discovered to my dismay that oakleaf hydrangeas did not thrive on the windy hillock we call home. And so each year I missed seeing their brilliant lantern-like panicles growing in the shady corners of my yard. Still I attempted to grow them on several occasions. They all died brutal deaths in the icy winds which buffet our abode each winter. Nevertheless, I was determined…

During our landscaping endeavors we created a microclimate on the southeast side of our yard by designing a garden wall made of privacy fence. It was there that I planted yet another oakleaf hydrangea. I hoped the oakleaf would be protected from old man winter’s ravaging breath beneath the boughs of a tall bald cypress nearby

 Surprisingly enough our enthusiastic hydrangea survived the winter. I cannot express my consummate relief at seeing those verdant green leaves sprout the following spring. But time would prove there were no blooms upon my hydrangea. The leaves were large and vivacious with life, but it would not bloom. Alas I discovered one day whilst gazing upon my long dreamt of hydrangea that the flower buds had been damaged by Missouri’s mulishly cold winter. There was hope, for my oakleaf had been large when I planted it. And I knew in climates akin to northwest Missouri’s where the winter temperatures regularly fall below -10 F if your oakleaf successfully reaches a large size then it is more likely to thrive. Even if one does not bloom annually there is pleasure to be derived by simply admiring its multifarious foliage each season.

Here are a few suggestions for growing the oakleaf hydrangea in northwest Missouri or similar zones. Locate a semi-shady site along the southeast or east side of your home. Considering the fact that oakleafs prefer well-drained soul amend your soil if desired. I did not amend mine. Instead I planted in a slightly raised bed for enhanced drainage. Once your oakleaf is happily planted mulch it to help retain moisture at its base. You may fertilize your hydrangea if you like. Mine has not yet required fertilizer.

In the fall as you enjoy the vibrant hues of your oakleaf hydrangea add a thick layer of mulch for winter protection. Check your oakleaf periodically throughout the cold season and apply additional mulch if you feel it is necessary. In the spring you should notice the first sign of grayish-green leaves as the hydrangea wakes from its winter rest. Do not fret if there are no leaves in March, even April. Oakleaf hydrangeas like to wait until the weather is truly warm before they show you their beauty.

If your oakleaf hydrangea survives the coming winters to reach a mature size, it is much more likely to continue to survive and bloom as well. My oakleaf hydrangea, I am thankful to say, has grown into a happy and well-adjusted shrub upon the windy hillock we call home.