Alice Oakleaf HydrangeaHydrangea quercifolia 'Alice'
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Hydrangea quercifolia 'Alice'
Outdoor Growing zone
Full Sun, Partial Sun, Shade
The Alice Oakleaf Hydrangea is the perfect shrub for the large spaces in shady parts of your garden. It will grow from 5 to 12 feet tall, depending on your soil, moisture levels, shade and local climate. It will be as wide as it is tall. With spectacular fall colors of deep-red, purple and bronze, its large, lobed leaves are a joy to behold. In summer it carries enormous spikes of white flowers, 12 inches long, or even more. Tolerant of all possible light levels, from full sun to full shade, this is the perfect plant for a woodland garden, or in the background of shrub beds. Use it as a screen between wooded areas and the more formal parts of your garden. Plant it to fill awkward, shady corners. Use it among other woodland plants, like rhododendrons, azaleas, ferns, and camellias. Wherever you grow it, this eye-catching and spectacular shrub is loved by every gardener in the know – it’s a ‘must have’.
Plant the Alice Oakleaf Hydrangea in rich, moist, well-drained soil for maximum growth. Add plenty of organic material to the soil when planting and mulch each spring with more. Keep well-watered, especially during dry spells. It will grow well from zone 5 to 9, and in zone 5 it should be planted in a place sheltered from cold winds. Remove any dead wood in spring, and prune for shape, if needed, in summer as the flowers begin to fade. This superior variety has disease-free foliage and is rarely bothered by pests.
Similar shrubs for colder areas: Tardiva White Hydrangea; Limelight Hydrangea
The idea of ‘hydrangea’ makes most of us think of neat, rounded shrubs a few feet tall, covered with dome-shaped flower clusters in pink or blue. But there are other hydrangeas that are less neat, but wonderful additions to large shrub borders, or to fill the spaces beneath large trees in the shade of a woodland garden. What better choice, then, for large, partially-shade places, than an improved version of a hydrangea that grows wild in America – the Alice Oakleaf Hydrangea?
This large shrub is fast-growing, and it will soon reach heights of 5 to 12 feet with a spread just as wide. It has dramatic foliage. Leaves that can be 8 inches long, and deeply lobed, resembling an oak leaf, give this plant both its common and botanical names. Unlike the mophead hydrangea, whose leaves might, at best, turn a little yellow before browning and falling, the Alice Oakleaf Hydrangea puts on a spectacular fall display of deep-red, purple and bronze – rich tones to compliment the brilliance of the trees in your garden.
The fall color alone, and its unique foliage size and shape, would make this shrub worth growing, but there is much more to this great plant. In June it produces enormous heads of white flowers – 10 to 14 inches long, swaying on the ends of the branches. These are upright, but their size makes them arch over elegantly, and a plant in full bloom is a magnificent sight. As these panicles mature, the flowers turn pinkish, before turning light brown.
The Alice Oakleaf Hydrangea grows best in partial shade – some morning sun is preferred, rather than afternoon sun, which in hot areas can damage the foliage. It will also grow in full sun in zones 5 and 6, with sufficient water, and grow well, but smaller, even in full, dark shade. It will grow in ordinary soil, but it will thrive in moist, deep soil enriched with organic material. In nature it grows among limestone, and it will grow in both acidic and alkaline soils. Mulch for the summer with more organic material, to preserve moisture, and water regularly. New plantings should be watered at least weekly, and bi-weekly during dry spells. Older plants will take some dryness, but they will grow better with regular watering.
Use this large shrub as background in shrub beds, and as an excellent way to fill spaces in your garden. Plant a row along the front of a wooded area, to define the space in front. Use it in a woodland garden to create an exciting background. For all those difficult shady areas, where you want a vigorous, natural planting, this is the ideal choice. You don’t need many shrubs of this size to fill spaces, so it is also an economical way to design your garden.
The Alice Oakleaf Hydrangea is hardy from zone 5 to zone 9, so it can be grown across most of the country. In zone 5 it should be planted in a sheltered place, with some screening from harsh northern winds. It may suffer some die-back of branches in very cold winters, and some flower buds may be lost, but it will quickly recover. In warmer areas it is more likely to reach its maximum size, and bloom prolifically. Any dead or broken branches, and thin, weak growth, should be removed in late winter or early spring. Do not prune more at this time, or flowering will be reduced.
If you need to reduce the height a little, or do any other shaping, do it in summer just as the flowers are turning pink, to allow plenty of time for flower-bud formation for the following year. Do not prune outside this time, or you will reduce flowering the next year. Prune by removing a few of the tallest stems completely, to open space for new shoots to develop Do not cut off the ends of branches, as the flower buds are on those ends – cut them off and you will have no flowers. This is why it is important to allow enough room for natural growth when planting. If you are constantly cutting back a plant that is too big for the space you gave it, it will not flower well.
The Oakleaf Hydrangea (hydrangea quercifolia) is an American native plant that grows in woodlands and along streams in several southeastern states. It can be found growing in North Carolina and west into Tennessee, as well as south to Florida and Louisiana. The variety ‘Alice’ was discovered by the famous woody plant specialist, Professor Michael A. Dirr, of the University of Georgia. He found a particularly impressive Oakleaf Hydrangea growing on the university campus, collected it for his Georgia Plant Introduction Program, and named it after his wife.
This variety is larger and more vigorous than other plants of this species. The foliage is disease-free, it has superior fall coloring, and the flower panicles are larger than normal too. This is the largest and most vigorous of the Oakleaf Hydrangeas. The Ruby Slippers Hydrangea is a smaller version, with strong red coloring as the white flowers fade. For similar flowers on a shrub for colder areas, choose the Tardiva Hydrangea or the Limelight Hydrangea, both of which are hardy to zone 3.
Our plants are produced for us from Professor Dirr’s original stock, and they are guaranteed to be this superior variety. Cheaper seedling forms, and un-named varieties, will be inferior, so choose the best. This plant is rarely offered to home gardeners, so take this opportunity to grow an outstanding plant and order now! We invite you to browse our collection of hydrangeas for more color and size options.
The Alice Oakleaf Hydrangea is a magnet for a variety of wildlife. Its large white flower spikes, which turn pinkish and then light brown, attract a variety of pollinators, including bees and butterflies. Birds are also attracted to the plant, especially when the flowers turn to seed. As a native plant to several southeastern states, it plays a crucial role in supporting local ecosystems.
The Alice Oakleaf Hydrangea can be propagated through cuttings or division. For cuttings, take a 4-6 inch piece of a non-flowering stem in early summer. Remove the lower leaves and plant the cutting in a pot with well-draining soil. Keep it moist and in a shaded location until roots develop. For division, dig up a mature plant in late winter or early spring, divide the root ball into sections with a sharp spade, and replant immediately. Both methods will produce a vigorous plant, true to the parent, as this variety is known for its robust growth.
The Alice Oakleaf Hydrangea is a versatile plant that pairs well with a variety of other plants. In partial shade, it can be paired with other shade-loving plants like hostas, ferns, and astilbes. In full sun, it can be paired with sun-loving plants that also enjoy moist conditions, such as daylilies, bee balm, and black-eyed Susans. In full shade, it can be paired with other shade-tolerant plants like heucheras, bleeding hearts, and Solomon’s seal.
The Alice Oakleaf Hydrangea is a robust and resilient plant. Its foliage is disease-free and it is rarely bothered by pests. However, like any plant, it can occasionally encounter problems. Over-watering or poor drainage can lead to root rot. Insects such as aphids, scale, and mites can sometimes be a problem, but are usually easily controlled with insecticidal soap or other organic controls. Deer may also be attracted to the plant, but this can be mitigated with fencing or deer repellents.
The Alice Oakleaf Hydrangea is a versatile plant that can be used in a variety of ways in landscape design. Its large size makes it an excellent choice for creating a living screen or hedge. It can also be used as a backdrop in a mixed border, where its large, lobed leaves and dramatic flower spikes can provide a stunning contrast to smaller, more delicate plants. Planted in a row along the front of a wooded area, it can provide a natural transition from the woods to a more formal garden area. Its tolerance for shade also makes it a great choice for underplanting beneath larger trees.
The Alice Oakleaf Hydrangea has a fascinating history. It was discovered by Professor Michael A. Dirr, a renowned woody plant specialist, on the campus of the University of Georgia. He was so impressed by its size and vigor that he named it after his wife, Alice. It is the largest and most vigorous of the Oakleaf Hydrangeas, a group of plants that are native to the southeastern United States. Its large, lobed leaves, which resemble those of an oak tree, give it its common name.
The Alice Oakleaf Hydrangea is a plant for all seasons. In the spring, its large, lobed leaves emerge, providing a dramatic backdrop for other spring-blooming plants. In June, it produces enormous heads of white flowers that sway elegantly on the ends of the branches. As the flowers mature, they turn pinkish, adding a new dimension of color to the garden. In the fall, the leaves turn deep-red, purple and bronze, providing a stunning contrast to the fading flowers. Even in winter, the dried flower heads and peeling bark provide interest in the garden.
As the Alice Oakleaf Hydrangea matures, it will need regular care to ensure it stays healthy and vibrant. It prefers moist, deep soil enriched with organic material, so adding compost or well-rotted manure to the soil each spring can be beneficial. Regular watering is also important, especially during dry spells. In late winter or early spring, any dead or broken branches, as well as thin, weak growth, should be removed. If necessary, the plant can be pruned for shape in summer as the flowers begin to fade.
The Alice Oakleaf Hydrangea is considered a superior variety for several reasons. Firstly, it is larger and more vigorous than other plants of this species, making it an excellent choice for filling large spaces in the garden. Secondly, its foliage is disease-free, meaning it is less likely to be affected by common plant diseases. Finally, its flower panicles are larger than normal, providing a dramatic display in the garden. All these factors combine to make the Alice Oakleaf Hydrangea a standout choice for any garden.