Hydrangea quercifolia (oak leaf hydrangea)
Among the most magnificent shrubs in Theodore Roosevelt Park are the hydrangeas, paniculata, macrophylla, and quercifolia. Hydrangea quercifolia, also called oak leaf, is a flowering, upright, broad, rounded, multi-stemmed, deciduous shrub native to the Southeastern portion of the United States. At maturity, the oak leaf grows to a height and width of 6 to 8 feet.
Leaves are large (8 to 12 inches), coarse-textured and lobed. In spring and early summer, this plant produces panicles of greenish-white flowers that change over time to light pink and brown color as the flowers age. In fall, the large, oak-like leaves can turn beautiful shades of burgundy, red, orange and yellow. The bark of the stems is a cinnamon color. It exfoliates and remains attractive throughout the seasons.
Adapting to the Upper West Side
Hydrangea quercifolia is well-suited to the growing conditions in Roosevelt Park. The oak leaf hydrangea is low-maintenance and fairly drought tolerant. It can grow under direct sun for limited periods, but prefers dappled sun and partial shade. In our park, we mass oak leaf with paniculata, macrophylla, hosta, sedum, heuchera, and anemones. Plants fill in and shade the garden beds, allowing little room for invasive weeds.