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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Thursday - June 02, 2011

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Soils, Shrubs
Title: What hydrangeas can be grown in Austin?
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I was told that oak leaf hydrangea was the only hydrangea variety that could be successfully grown in Austin TX. My oakleaf hydrangea is doing great and I would like to plant other varieties. Can you tell me if a non-oak leaf hydrangea will do well in Austin?

ANSWER:

This particular member of the Mr. Smarty Plants team may very well have been the one who told you that, as I was visiting with attendees of the Wildflower Center Garden Tour. That garden had a beautiful (small) planting of Hydrangea quercifolia (Oakleaf hydrangea). We fielded many questions from attendees wanting to know if they could grow those here, or other varieties or even non-native varieties. Frankly, that gardener had no doubt done a number of things, including adding a lot of leaf-mold compost, to increase the acidity of that soil. Hydrangeas are very much a soil-dependant plant, and they tend to be native to areas where the leaves from deciduous trees and pine needles have fallen on the ground and slowly decayed for many centuries, contributing to an acid soil. As you can see from this USDA Plant Profile map, oakleaf hydrangea is not even native to Texas at all, although they do grow well introduced into East Texas. Follow the plant link above to read all about this plant, including these two lines:

"Soil Description: Moist, fertile, well-drained soils.
Conditions Comments: Susceptible to sunscald, chlorosis in alkaline soils, and winter dieback."

Our Native Plant Database has two other hydrangeas native to North America, Decumaria barbara (Decumaria) (not a true hydrangea but a member of the same family), which grows natively in the same areas as oakleaf hydrangea; the other is Hydrangea arborescens (Wild hydrangea), which grows to the north and east of Texas, but not in Texas, itself.

We know that a number of hydrangeas are sold by nurseries, most of which, we are sure, are non-natives or extensively hybridized, so we have no information on them in our Native Plant Database. Because we can't help you with those, here are two articles we found that might be of use. Remember,  most of those named are hybrids or non-natives.

Planting and Transplanting Hydrangeas

All About Hydrangeas

 

From the Image Gallery


Oakleaf hydrangea
Hydrangea quercifolia

Decumaria
Decumaria barbara

Wild hydrangea
Hydrangea arborescens

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