Are Oakleaf hydrangeas always brittle?

Q. Are Oakleaf hydrangeas always brittle? I have had two episodes of severe breakage, once when the entire plant broke off at the soil line as I was planting it, and I am not a careless or inexperienced gardener. Please give me a description of the durability of this shrub. Otherwise it sounds like a good garden choice. Gretchen Russell – Gig Harbor, WA

A. From my experience I have not found Oakleaf Hydrangeas (Hydrangea quercifolia) to be particularly brittle. It is a great garden plant that is fairly pest free and as you say a “good garden choice”. Sometimes damage can occur to a shrub when it is being removed from the pot. If the plant is root bound or tight in the pot there is a tendency to want to tug the shrub up and out holding the branches and pushing the pot down with the other hand. It is better to tilt the shrub on its side (when possible) and roll on the pot with your palms to loosen the soil in the pot and then slide the plant off. If you can’t turn it then massage it between your two palms or tap the sides. Still tilt the plant towards the ground to slide it out. This reduces the force of gravity from the root system as you remove the shrub. Then the plant can be handled by the rootball when it is planted. – HG

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