How to Grow and Care for Ruby Slippers Hydrangeas

A Compact Hydrangea for Small Spaces with Year-Round Appeal

Hydrangea quercifolia ' Ruby Slippers'
Hydrangea quercifolia ' Ruby Slippers'


Ruby Slippers hydrangea is special for several reasons, one of the best being that it is attractive all season long. After starting off as white, its large panicle flower clusters turn pale pink and then ruby red as the season progresses, which gave this cultivar its name. In the fall, its foliage turns mahogany red, and in the winter its exfoliating bark provides winter interest.

‘Ruby Slippers’ is a cultivated variety of the oakleaf hydrangea, which is native to southeastern North America and as such attracts pollinators. The variety is a hybrid between the oakleaf hydrangea ‘Snow Queen’ and ‘Pee Wee’. It was introduced in 2010 by the U.S. National Arboretum as a small, compact, mounding shrub that is especially suited for residential settings with limited space.

If you have a small yard or patio and want a striking hydrangea that also has native heredity, ‘Ruby Slippers’ fits that bill. In addition to beautiful blooms and year round interest this small shrub attracts pollinators.

Botanical Name Hydrangea quercifolia 'Ruby Slippers'
Common Name Ruby Slippers hydrangea
Plant Type Deciduous flowering shrub
Mature Size Three to four feet height, three to five feet width
Sun Exposure Full sun to part shade
Soil Type Loamy
Soil pH 5 to 6.0
Bloom Time Summer
Flower Color White gradually turning pale pink then ruby red
Hardiness Zones 5-9 (USDA)
Native Area (of the species) Southeastern US from Georgia to Florida to Louisiana
Flowers of Ruby Slippers hydrangea are white at the beginning
Flowers of Ruby Slippers hydrangea are white at the beginning


How to Grow Ruby Slippers Hydrangeas 

Growing Ruby Slippers hydrangea is very much the same as for oakleaf hydrangeas—they require little care, especially after they are established. 


In their native southern climate, oakleaf hydrangeas grow in the shade of tall trees, which protects them from the hot afternoon sun. So if you live in a warm climate, plant it where it gets shade during the hottest hours of the day. However, if the location is too shady, the fall colors are less intense. In cooler climates, it can grow in full sun. 


While hydrangeas prefer evenly moist soil, the soil should have good drainage—hydrangeas dislike wet feet. Amend clay soil with organic matter to improve drainage.

If in doubt whether your soil is acidic, measure its pH and acidify the soil around the planting area as needed with Holly Tone or a similar supplement.  


During the first season, until the hydrangea is established, water it regularly to keep the soil evenly moist. Once it’s established, it can tolerate drier soil. But depending on sun exposure , watering during dry periods may still be necessary. Mulching around the plant helps to retain soil moisture and keeps the shallow root system cool.

Temperature and Humidity

Outside its native habitat of the southeastern US, oakleaf hydrangea is hardy yet its flower buds are vulnerable to winter injury when temperatures drop below minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit, which will lead to reduced or no flowering. If you are located in zone 5, it is best to plant Ruby Slippers hydrangea in a protected spot shielded from chilling winds, snow, and ice.

As a native of the American south, the plant is well adapted to humid conditions. 


When grown in soil amended with ample organic matter, hydrangea requires no regular fertilization, but it will benefit from a bloom-booster in the spring. If your soil is alkaline, a special fertilizer for acid-loving plants will have the added benefit to keep the soil pH in the target range. 

Mature flower color of Ruby Slippers hydrangea
Mature flower color of Ruby Slippers hydrangea

F.D. Richards / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0


Ruby Slippers hydrangea is a slow grower, and there is not much pruning to be done other than removing dead branches. Make sure to prune after the plant has bloomed, as oakleaf hydrangeas bloom on last year’s growth and you risk removing flower buds if you prune in the spring before the bloom. 

Propagating Ruby Slippers Hydrangeas

Like all hydrangeas, oakleaf hydrangeas have shallow roots that send out suckers. Propagating these is done similarly as you would any hydrangea, through root cuttings, except that the suckers already have some roots.

Fall foliage of Ruby Slippers hydrangea
Fall foliage of Ruby Slippers hydrangea


Potting and Repotting

Ruby Slippers can be grown in large containers. Plant the hydrangea in a container slightly larger than the one you bought it in to allow for some growth before it needs another repotting. As long as you provide it with a pot that is the right size and a good drainage hole, it should do just fine.

Common Pests and Diseases

Just like oakleaf hydrangea, the Ruby Slippers cultivar is relatively unbothered by pests and diseases. It has a slight susceptibility to leaf blight and powdery mildew, and it might attract aphids and spider mites.