Munchkin Oakleaf HydrangeaHydrangea quercifolia 'Munchkin'
View more from Hydrangeas
30 day - ARRIVE AND THRIVE™ guaranteeLearn more
The Munchkin Hydrangea is a compact version of the oak-leaf hydrangea, growing not much more than 4 feet tall, with a dense, bushy form. It has striking lobed leaves resembling oak, with a leathery texture and fuzzy undersides. The 6½ inch tall flower cones appear in June, and they stay upright even after heavy rain. The bright-white flowers gradually turn pink and red as the year progresses. Grow it in shrub beds, natural gardens or even in tubs. It’s a natural choice for smaller gardens.
The Munchkin Hydrangea tolerates much more sun and dryness than other hydrangeas, but it also grows well in partial shade. It thrives in moist, rich, well-drained soil, but also in more ordinary garden conditions, needing very little attention. Pests, diseases and even deer ignore it, and it really doesn’t need pruning or any special attention at all.
The classic blue and pink hydrangeas have dominated our summer gardens for more than 100 years, but the group of plants called Hydrangea is bigger than that. Those colorful pinks and blues originated in China and Japan, but as is so often true, Asia and America share plant groups, and we have our own hydrangeas. These have been long overlooked, but our thirst for something new, and our interest in growing native plants have combined to bring those American shrubs into focus.
This century has seen our oak-leaf hydrangea rise from ‘rare collectors plant’ to ‘popular garden plant’ in a few short years, as the beauty and benefits of this shrub have become much better known. Since it tends to be quite a large bush, it has been hard to fit it into smaller gardens – a shame since those gardens become more common every year. So it’s great to have in our stock a wonderful variety of this bush – the Munchkin Hydrangea. Most of us first met munchkins in the delightful Wizard of Oz, and like those child-sized people, the Munchkin Hydrangea is much smaller than ordinary oak-leaf hydrangeas, but just as beautiful. It still has the unique lobed leaves and bushy habit, and the white conical flowers may be a little shorter, but they are still generous in size, and make a great display through summer and into fall. More tolerant of drier conditions and sun than other hydrangeas, this terrific shrub is an incredibly useful and beautiful addition to any garden.
A bushy, deciduous shrub, the fast-growing Munchkin Hydrangea forms a rounded bush no more than 4½ feet tall and wide. It has many branches rising from the base, and the handsome foliage fills it out beautifully. The large tough leaves are divided into lobes a little like a giant oak leaf, and very unlike ordinary hydrangeas. They are dark green with a dull surface, and in fall they turn lovely shades of mahogany red, making a great show before falling in early winter. In the warmest zones this plant tends to be semi-evergreen, and the leaves may not fall until after the new growth develops in spring. The dwarf habit makes it especially bushy, with the leaves packed densely along the branches.
At the end of spring the flowers emerge from the tips of the branches, expanding into fat cones about 6½ inches long that are showing color by the middle of June. The cones of flowers contain two distinct types of bloom – larger white blooms with 4 flat petals, rising out of a mass of tiny, greenish-white flowers. This creates a very sophisticated look, and the lighter structure means the cones stand strongly upright, undamaged by heavy rain. The flowers remain white for several weeks, and then begin to slowly, slowly turn pink. Then as fall comes the become more red, making a great display that is always slightly different every time you see it. This plant is a very consistent and prolific bloomer that you can rely on to brighten your summer garden.
This plant makes a wonderful specimen in a small bed, and it is ideal for planting in groups in the middle or front parts of larger beds. It fits well into more structured gardens, and perfectly into wilder, more natural ones. Space plants in groups between 2½ and 3 feet apart.
The Munchkin Hydrangea is very hardy, growing even in zone 5 and relishing the heat and humidity of warmer zones, all the way into zone 9.
If you love hydrangeas but have too much sun for classic varieties, then the Munchkin Hydrangea is for you. Yes, it does grow well in partial shade, but it also grows in full sun, if the ground is not too dry. It grows best in moist, rich, well-drained soil, but it is significantly more drought tolerant than other hydrangeas. If your garden tends to be a little dry for most hydrangeas, then this is the plant for you
The Munchkin Hydrangea is usually pest and disease free, and it is rarely bothered by deer, unlike other hydrangeas. It needs very little attention and shouldn’t be pruned much. Just remove the flower heads when they become unattractive, trimming back to the first buds you see on those stems. In spring remove any weak or dead branches, and in older plants remove a couple of larger branches to keep it more open and stimulate new growth. Don’t trim the new stems at all.
The Oak-leaf Hydrangea, Hydrangea quercifolia, is native to America, growing in damp woodlands from Georgia down into Florida and Louisiana. It is the State Wildflower of Alabama. There is an older dwarf variety called ‘Sike’s Dwarf’, but the flowers are just a few inches tall, so it has limited garden value. The US National Arboretum runs a shrub breeding program at its McMinnville facility in Tennessee, and there, in 1997, breeders sowed a batch of seeds they had collected from ‘Sike’s Dwarf’. Among the seedlings was a medium-sized plant with big flower clusters, and after more assessment it was released in 2010 with the name ‘Munchkin’.
If you have a smaller garden, then the Munchkin Hydrangea is for you. In a larger garden too it is perfect for summer interest. Don’t hesitate in growing it, but tough and reliable shrubs like this are always in high demand. Order now while we still have some stock available – it will be gone very soon.