Ruby Slippers In The Garden

After featuring the red leaves of my dwarf oakleaf hydrangea in Monday’s vase I went back through some photos to evaluate how it looked earlier in the year.  The sequence of its development each year is remarkable, so I thought I would share its colorful stages.

This is Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Ruby Slippers’  (Lil’ Ruby dwarf Oakleaf Hydrangea). It was planted in April 2013 near a large Arizona cypress at the back of the western border, where it could receive some protection from the hot summer sun. It developed rich red leaves that first year and had one or two blooms the following spring, but in 2015 I moved it forward where it could receive more sunlight. Then it really took off.

Just planted, April 2013. Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Ruby Slippers’

April 30, 2017

By late April the hydrangea show begins. This oakleaf blooms on last year’s growth, but unlike the Hydrangea macrophylla in the garden, flower production has never been affected by cold weather.

April 30, 2017. Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Ruby Slippers’

May 8, 2017

The inflorescence can be about 9 inches long.

May 8, 2017. Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Ruby Slippers’

May 15, 2017

The deciduous shrub is said to mature quickly at 3 1/2 ft. tall to 4 to 5 ft. wide. Mine has not spread that wide, or maybe it has. I should measure!

May 15, 2017. Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Ruby Slippers’

May 31, 2017

The flowers open as pure white but in a couple of weeks take on a pink tinge.

May 31, 2017. Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Ruby Slippers’

June 27, 2017

In another month the flowers have developed a richer red hue. (Ignore those pink garden phlox in the background–an unplanned combination so shocking I almost like it.)

June 27, 2017. Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Ruby Slippers’

July 1, 2017

July 1, 2017. Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Ruby Slippers’

July 1, 2017. Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Ruby Slippers’

September 22, 2017

Eventually the flowers fade and at least in my hot summer garden, turn brown—the least attractive stage. I have no pictures of the oakleaf during this period.

Then in about September the leaf color begins to transform the shrub.

September 22, 2017 Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Ruby Slippers’

December 6, 2013

Brilliant red leaves developed even the first year.

December 6, 2013. Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Ruby Slippers’

December 21, 2016

Last winter I captured this frosty-rimmed scene.

December 21, 2016. Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Ruby Slippers’

November 25, 2017

And this year the color has warmed the garden with richness.

November 25, 2017. Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Ruby Slippers’

Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Ruby Slippers’ has been a successful addition to my garden. What’s your favorite shrub for extended seasonal color?

35 thoughts on “Ruby Slippers In The Garden

      1. Eliza Waters

        Being in MA, we don’t get the heat or humidity the South gets, so it seems happy. It’s the Japanese beetles I have to watch out for, riddling it with holes. 😦

  1. Christina

    It has done really well since you moved it. It’s completely gorgeous in every season. I’m not sure which I like best, the flowers or those gorgeously richly coloured leaves.

  2. Kris P

    It’s a delightful plant at each and every stage, Susie, which isn’t something you can say about many plants. I tried an oak-leaf hydrangea in my former pre-drought, well-watered garden. Unfortunately, it wasn’t happy even there so I know it wouldn’t do here, which is such a pity.

  3. Beth @ PlantPostings

    Oh, that is enchanting! I’ve seen Oakleaf Hydrangea in various seasons during garden tours, but it’s nice to have this documentation with the various stages. Gosh, I can’t pick a favorite for autumn color, but some that come to mind on my own property–Aronia, Cotoneaster, and Buttonbush.

  4. Joanna

    So neat to watch it grow! I’m not usually that fond of hydrangeas, but I saw oakleaf hydrangeas for the first time at New York Botanical Gardens last June, and liked them. Amazing how the flowers change color!

    1. pbmgarden Post author

      Glad you enjoyed seeing the Oakleaf hydrangeas Joanne. They are ubiquitous around here so I’ve tended to take them for granted, but am learning to appreciate them more.

    1. pbmgarden Post author

      Good question Jason. Wildlife value is not mentioned much in the references I found but seeds are eaten by birds and small mammals. (also “may be grazed by deer”!)

  5. P&B

    It’s such a lovely plant from the beginning to the end of the season. The gradual change of color from white & pink in May to red in June is really fascinating.

  6. Brian Skeys

    It is a lovely shrub, you have beautifully captured its development. We have one called ‘ Burgundy ‘ which I rescued from a garden centre discount table, it is a joy to have in the garden.


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