Okra Hydrangea

This 'Semmes Beauty' inflorescence contains both pristine white sterile florets and tiny creamy fertile florets.

I recently blogged about the exotic mophead hydrangea which I do dearly love.

My favorite hydrangea though is actually our native oakleaf hydrangea.

Hydrangea quercifolia is native to the southeastern United States and cold hardy to zone 5.

This shrub is usually found on wooded slopes growing in rich well drained soil.  It was first discovered and named by John Bartram in the late 1700’s When Bartram was exploring Georgia and Florida.

Oakleaf hydrangea or Okra (pronounced oak-ree) hydrangea has large lobed leaves similar in shape to a red oak or an okra plant.  The leaves are bold and hairy and often have wonderful burgundy fall color.

Older specimens develop peeling cinnamon colored bark.

Wild oakleaf hydrangeas are draped along the steep slopes on I-20 coming into Vicksburg, Mississippi.

Oakleaf hydrangea has a long cylindrical panicle shaped inflorescence.   It is pure white gradually taking on a pink hue as it dries on the plant.

The blossoms are composed of two types of florets.   Tiny inconspicuous fertile florets mature into small brown rounded seed capsules.   The more showy sterile florets are white and similar to paper cutouts.

These hydrangeas grow best if shaded during the hottest part of the day.   Eastern exposures with morning sun and afternoon shade are usually ideal.

Soil must have good drainage.   If soil drainage is less than perfect, plant on a slope or a slight mound so the rootball can shed water.

If soil is acid, add a little lime or a calcium containing fertilizer.  In the wild, plants thrive in soils with pH near neutral.

'Snowflake' blooms cheerfully in my front garden.

I have collected several forms of this beautiful native.  ‘Snowflake’ bears showy semi-double sterile flowers.  ‘Semmes Beauty’  is a large flowered selection from Mr. Tom Dodd.  I have also collected seed and have a form that I found along the Chunky River near Dunn’s Falls.

Like the mophead, this hydrangea blooms on old wood.  Plants can be pruned after flowering by heading back the taller stems to shape as needed.

Be sure to leave some stems with dried flowers, these will produce blooms for next year.

This hydrangea is so lovely that I would certainly hate to miss a year’s bloom!







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2 Responses to“Okra Hydrangea”

  1. yardflow says:

    Kc – I’m sure it was seed grown. Other than that…. It may have come off nursery stock in my back yard. Or possibly from the Birmingham Botanical Garden back when I had permission to collect from there.

  2. Kc says:

    Is there any way you remember the strain you gave me to give to babs ages ago? Your pruning info is right on time. Can’t wait for the dried flowers.

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