2018 Arbor Day Seedling

2018 Arbor Day Seedling – SOLD OUT

Celebrate Arbor Day with a new plant!

As a part of our mission to promote horticulture and the cultivation of exceptional woody plants in our region, the Arnold Arboretum distributes exceptional plant material to other botanical institutions and to members of the Arboretum community. We continue to honor and build upon this legacy through the Arbor Day Seedling Program, which makes a seedling of a tree, shrub, or vine available in early spring to members of The Friends of the Arnold Arboretum as a benefit at the Sustaining ($100) level and above. Inaugurated in 1970 as the Spring Plant Dividend, the Arbor Day Seedling Program invites our members to cultivate a living part of our renowned collections in their own landscapes. Qualifying members receive a letter of invitation in February.

Hydrangea quercifolia 'Ruby Slippers' National Arboretum

Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Ruby Slippers’ (oakleaf hydrangea), photo courtesy of the U.S. National Arboretum

Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Ruby Slippers’

(Cultivar of Oakleaf hydrangea) Zones 5-8

“There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home,” especially when ‘Ruby Slippers’ adorns your landscape. Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Ruby Slippers’ is an exceptional cultivar of oakleaf hydrangea, selected and named by the U.S. National Arboretum’s Plant Introduction Program for its outstanding flower color and dwarf form. In early summer, a profusion of 9-inch long upright panicles open white, transform to pale pink, and “with a click of the heels” intensify to rose.

‘Ruby Slippers’ offers four seasons of interest and can fit nearly anywhere in the residential landscape. Growing 3.5 feet in height by 5 feet wide, it tolerates partial shade planted beneath a large tree, and coarse summer foliage provides contrast to an already established garden. Leaves are usually five-lobbed and rugose (rough) with serrate (toothed) margins, and resemble red oaks (Quercus rubra). Foliage changes to mahogany-red in autumn, and after leaves fall, rich brown exfoliating bark is revealed—pure magic.

Oakleaf hydrangea is a native of the southeast United States, from Mississippi to Florida, so it can withstand the August heat as well as bitter winters in New England. The Arnold Arboretum has grown H. quercifolia for nearly 139 years, since receiving a cutting in July 1879 from the Harvard Botanic Garden. Plant explorer Ernest Henry Wilson described its characteristics in great detail in a 1930s article for the Arboretum’s Bulletin of Popular Information, noting that H. quercifolia had “not yet attained the full popularity that its attractive nature merits.” Today dozens of cultivars are available in the nursery trade, perhaps none exhibiting as many positive attributes as ‘Ruby Slippers’. Plant this remarkable “shrub of a different color” along the “yellow brick road” of your garden.

Planting and Care Instructions

Carefully unpack your plant. Woody plants that have broken dormancy do not fare well indoors, so you will want to get the plant outside as soon as conditions permit. Begin the hardening-off process after the last frost date, gradually transitioning the plant to outdoor conditions. One way to do this is to place it in a protected and partially-shaded spot, either close to your house or in another protected location such as in the shade of an evergreen plant. Long periods of direct sunlight should be avoided during this time as it may burn the new foliage and reduce overall plant vigor. Once it has become acclimated to the rigors of being outside it will be ready for planting, preferably in a location that is protected from foot traffic and accidental breakage.

Plant in well-drained soil at the correct depth. The top of the root system should be level with the soil surface. The depth of the hole should accommodate the height of the roots and be left undisturbed to prevent settling, while the width of the hole should be at least two times the width of the root ball. This loosened soil will allow new roots to grow more quickly. After planting, apply mulch over the area, but do not allow mulch to contact the stem to reduce the likelihood of rot. Water well after mulching and continue to water (but not saturate) for several months until established.

Flower buds are formed the year before opening, so once your plant is sizable and vigorous, pruning should be completed in summer after flowers are spent. For rejuvenation of a large shrub, prune up to 1/3 of the oldest stems down to the ground each summer.