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Hydrangea quercifolia – Oakleaf Hydrangea Little Honey

Categories:Easy to Grow Fall Color For the Shade Garden Hydrangeas Native Plants Shrubs

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Little Honey oakleaf hydrangea is unexpectedly great.

I had seen photographs in catalogs for years and had reservations. So often mutations and sports of plants are nothing more than curiosities ill-suited for the garden. My skepticism was unfounded, as Little Honey oakleaf hydrangea is beautiful when viewed in person. Leaves are softly colored yet vibrant.

Little Honey oakleaf hydrangea
Little Honey oakleaf hydrangea

Take extra care with where you plant Little Honey oakleaf hydrangea in the garden. In my experience, Little Honey is not as tolerant of the afternoon sun as the darker-leaved species is.

‘Little Honey’ oakleaf hydrangea is a sport of the Pee Wee hydrangea. David Jarzynka discovered the unusually colored hydrangea in Olympia, Washington in 1999. It was patented as Little Honey oakleaf hydrangea in 2001 after two years of evaluation.

Little Honey oakleaf hydrangea in the garden

The sunnier the exposure, the more the yellow color of the leaves will be enhanced. ‘Little Honey’ oakleaf hydrangeas grown in heavy to medium shade will be Chartreuse (see photograph below). The ideal exposure is morning sun to bring out the best color, followed by shade in the afternoon.

Hydrangeas are easy to grow. The primary thing to focus on is providing excellent drainage. The combination of winter and poorly drained clay soils is the leading cause of the demise of oakleaf hydrangeas. If possible, plant in well-drained soil and do not plant too deeply. Gardeners new to oakleaf hydrangeas might want to read how to plant oakleaf hydrangeas successfully. Keep the plant well-watered the first season.

Little Honey oakleaf hydrangea
Little Honey oakleaf hyrangea

Little Honey needs afternoon shade.

Leaves will burn in the afternoon sun. Oakleaf hydrangeas can grow happily in full sun in their native upper elevations. In most gardens, planting oakleaf hydrangeas in full or afternoon sun is a bit like planting roses in partial shade: They may survive, but they will rarely reach their full potential. WIth oakleaf hydrangeas in general, and Little Honey in particular, protect the leaves from afternoon sun.

Consider companion plantings to ‘Little Honey’ oakleaf hydrangea carefully. Oakleaf hydrangeas have course, bold textures, and Little Honey adds to this equation with its ‘look at me’ color. Working with unusually colored or variegated plants in garden design can be a challenge. Plant it in areas that could use some brightening during the afternoon hours.

Plants with dark green foliage or fine texture might juxtapose with Little Honey effectively. One of the most effective effects with Hydrangea quercifolia in garden design I’ve managed was planting oakleaf hydrangea and paperbush (Edgeworthia chrysantha) next to each other. Both species have bold leaves and the combination worked beautifully.

oakleaf hydrangea little honey variation in leaf color
Two plants grown side by side shows the difference in color based on the amount of shade/sun. ‘Little Honey’ hydrangea in the background is directly under a tree and the yellow color is much less pronounced.
Genus/speciesHydrangea quercifolia ‘Little Honey’
Common name(s)Little Honey oakleaf hydrangea
Of notegreen-yellow foliage works, somehow
Fall coloryes
Water requirementsaverage
Soil qualityrich, well-drained, average
Suggested use(s)cottage gardens, mixed borders/perennial beds, woodlands
Hardiness zone(s)5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b
Typeshrub
Nativeyes
Invasiveno
Deer resistantno
Deciduous or evergreendeciduous
Flower colorwhite
Bloom periodmid to late spring, summer
Exposureafternoon shade, filtered light

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