How to Plant, Grow and Care For Limelight Hydrangeas
Limelight hydrangeas can make a wonderful addition to any garden. These beautiful shrubs grow quite tall with beautiful blooms. Because they are panicles, they are also surprisingly heat and sun tolerant. In this article, gardening expert and hydrangea enthusiast Jill Drago examines how to successfully grow Limelight hydrangeas and provide them with proper care.
Hydrangea paniculata is a wonderful species of hydrangea. With huge cone-shaped flowers and a gorgeous vase shape, these shrubs fit like a glove in almost any garden. Where most hydrangea species need a break from the sun, Hydrangea paniculata does not. They thrive in the sun, which makes a lot of gardeners very happy!
‘Limelight’ hydrangeas are one of my favorite hydrangeas, and they are especially my favorite panicle hydrangea. I have seen them planted in so many stunning ways. It’s really hard for me to imagine another plant being so versatile. Whether planted in a formal hedge or as an informal border to a patio, ‘Limelight’ hydrangeas fit the bill.
If you have been on the hunt for a beautiful blooming shrub that will tolerate both some sun and shade, I think the ‘Limelight’ might be the answer for you! Let’s dig in and learn a bit more about this variety of Hydrangea paniculata.
Limelight Hydrangea Overview
|common name Limelight Hydrangea|
|botanical name Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’|
|plant type Deciduous Shrub|
|bloom colors Green to White|
|sun requirements Partial Sun to Full Sun|
|water needs Moderate|
|height 72-96 inches|
|spacing 84-96 inches|
|hardiness zones 3-9|
|soil needs Well drained|
‘Limelight’ hydrangeas are an extremely popular variety of panicle hydrangeas. This variety of hydrangea has proved itself over and over again to be a consistent performer that is just stunning.
This cultivar will reach up to 8 feet in height and width. This hydrangea blooms with green massive football-shaped flowers. As summer heats up, the flowers will turn to white before fading to a pinkish red. In the fall the flowers will finally fade to beige.
While all of this color changing is going on with the flowers, the foliage will be changing colors as well. The leaves are oval-shaped and will spend most of the season in a vibrant shade of green. However, they will begin to turn to a deep shade of red in the fall, accenting the flowers perfectly.
These hydrangeas are tough. They are both cold and heat tolerant, continuing to bloom year after year. Growing in zones 4-8, and thriving in coastal communities, ‘Limelight’ hydrangeas are as versatile are they are beautiful.
If the large size of this shrub seems daunting to you, or you don’t have the space, there is a miniature version called little lime. This hydrangea only grows to 5 feet in height and 3 feet in width. Besides the height little lime and ‘Limelight’ are nearly identical.
Why You Should Plant This Variety
If you are considering ‘Limelight’ hydrangea, then you already know the benefits of growing panicle hydrangeas. This hydrangea species loves the sun, whereas the rest prefer partial shade.
Aside from loving the sun, they are hardy in zones 4-8, which makes this plant a great choice for a very large area of the United States.
Panicle hydrangeas can be pruned into a tree form which includes ‘Limelight’ hydrangeas. While this is a task that takes quite a bit of time and patience, you may be able to purchase a tree form of the plant from your garden center.
Propagating ‘Limelight’ is a wonderful, easy way to add more hydrangeas to your garden for little to no cost! The best way to propagate is by taking softwood cuttings.
Softwood is also considered fresh wood within the current growing season. Take cuttings in May, June, or July. These cuttings should be about 6 inches long and should have a few sets of leaves on them.
Remove a few of the bottom sets of leaves, exposing growth points. Dip your cutting in root hormone powder and stick the cuttings into a sterile planting medium.
Keep your cuttings moist but not too wet. When you can gently tug on the cutting and meet resistance, the roots begin to form. Transplant your cuttings as needed until you are ready to plant your new ‘Limelights’ in your garden.
Before planting, harden off the cuttings for about a week by keeping them outside but out of direct sunlight until the cuttings acclimate to the elements.
Once you have selected the perfect ‘Limelight’ hydrangea from the garden center, it is time to get planting! Hopefully, you have a spot in mind for this new shrub.
If not, that’s okay! Wander your garden in search of a space that gets 6 hours or more of sunlight per day and that also has well-draining soil. Lastly, you will want to make sure that this space has enough room for a full-grown ‘Limelight’ hydrangea. These hydrangeas can reach up to 6-8 feet in height and width.
Okay- now you have a spot picked out! If your soil is a little too sandy, or maybe not as “well-draining” as your ‘Limelight’ may prefer, this is the time to add compost or other organic material into the soil. Mix it in well for the best results.
Dig your hole about two times as wide and deep as the root ball of the panicle hydrangea. Position the plant with its best face forward and backfill the hole with your garden soil. Water your hydrangea right away and continue to monitor and water regularly until your shrub is established and growing happily in your garden.
How to Grow
Limelights are well-loved because of their beauty but also for their ease of care. Let’s take a look at what you need to do to ensure you get the most out of your hydrangeas.
All panicle hydrangeas love the sun, and ‘Limelight’ is no different. These hydrangeas thrive in full to partial sun. This means they need around six hours or more of sun per day.
However, panicle hydrangeas are tolerant of a bit more shade, and you can get away with about 4 or 5 hours of sunlight. When planted in deep shade the growth will be leggy and you may not see any flowers.
Hydrangeas in general, require about one inch of water per week. This may differ a bit if you are growing your ‘Limelight’ hydrangeas in full sun.
Pay attention to your plants. They are very good at letting you know that they are thirsty. Look for leaves that are drooping toward the ground in the afternoon. If this is becoming a regular occurrence, you may need to bump up the watering a bit.
Adding mulch to your gardens is a really easy way to help manage your watering. Not only does mulch help to keep weeds out of your garden, but it helps your soil hold on to water in the heat of the summer.
‘Limelight’ hydrangeas grow best in soil that is moist and well-draining. Panicle hydrangeas are even tolerant of clay soil. You are looking for soil that holds some water but does not pool and flood the root system of your hydrangea.
Climate and Temperature
‘Limelight’ hydrangeas grow best in zones 4-8, making them relatively cold and heat tolerant. This is such a tough variety of hydrangea; they rebound very nicely and return each spring no matter how cold the winters get. These hydrangeas are also tolerant of salt, making them an excellent choice for coastal regions.
‘Limelight’ hydrangeas only need spring fertilization for them to perform at their best. Be careful when fertilizing. Too much fertilizer can weaken the stems which can cause them to bend and droop toward the ground under the heavy weight of the large flowers.
If you are unsure if you need to fertilize, a soil test is always a great way to find out! You can buy soil test kits online, at garden centers, or at local colleges.
‘Limelight’ hydrangeas are pretty low maintenance once they are established. Aside from watering and optional pruning, they should not need regular maintenance.
‘Limelight’ hydrangeas bloom on new wood. This means that their flower buds are not formed until spring has sprung. This gives you some wiggle room with your pruning schedule.
You may choose to prune in the fall when all of the flowers have passed, or you can prune them in the springtime before any new growth appears. Cut the stalks to about a foot in height.
You can also ignore the advice to prune your hydrangeas every year. It is not necessary. In fact, ‘Limelight’ hydrangeas have such large flowers the older stalks provide excellent support for the new stems.
You will not have too many issues with pests when growing ‘limelight’ hydrangeas. The most common pests are aphids, beetles, and mites. Occasionally a deer may be seen nibbling on your plants, but that is not common.
Keeping your garden neat and clean throughout the year is a great way to prevent bugs from nesting in your plants. If you notice you have aphids or spider mites, you can first try to remove these insects by hand or with a strong spray from your hose. If that doesn’t work, try using insecticidal soap.
As for the beetles, mix a bucket of water with some dish soap and knock the beetles into the mixture. If they are growing near a lawn that has grub issues, you will want to treat your lawn with granular grub control. This will help limit the beetle population.
‘Limelight’ hydrangeas are tough and resilient plants. There are not too many diseases you need to be worried about with them. Fungal diseases are the main issue with all hydrangeas, this cultivar included.
Common fungal diseases you may see are botrytis blight, leaf spot, powdery mildew, or root rot. Control these diseases by keeping your garden neat and also by removing any affected leaves or stems.
Treatment with copper fungicide is an easy and accessible way to treat your fungal diseases. Be sure to follow the application rates on the label.
‘Limelight’ hydrangeas reach from 6-8 feet tall and wide. The large size of this variety of hydrangea lends itself nicely to a privacy screen or hedge.
I love to see them planted in a hedge with beautiful flowering perennials in front of them for a formal look. They are also beautiful foundation plants or background plants in a perennial garden.
If you have large containers, ‘Limelight’ hydrangeas make wonderful container plants as well! Just don’t forget to water them more frequently than the hydrangeas planted in your garden.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will they grow in the shade?
‘Limelight’ hydrangeas need either full sun or partial shade, which means these shrubs need a minimum of 4-6 hours of sun per day. This variety needs the sun to produce a lot of flowers on top of very strong stems.
If they get less than 4 hours of sun per day you may notice that the flowers are small, or there may not be any flowers at all. Another sign that they need more sun is weak or leggy growth. These stems likely will not be able to hold up the large flowers and will bend and bow toward the ground.
Are they deer resistant?
I am of the belief that there is no plant that is entirely deer resistant. However, there are some plants that deer prefer over others and ‘Limelight’ hydrangea is not one of their favorites.
If you have a high deer population in your area you can spray products such as liquid fence on your plants. These types of products will deter deer by producing a foul odor.
Can limelight hydrangeas be turned blue?
Sadly no. If you are looking for a blue hydrangea you will want to look for bigleaf, or mountain hydrangeas. These species of hydrangea are sensitive to the pH of the soil which is what will turn the blossoms blue.
‘Limelight’ hydrangeas begin the season blooming in a light shade of green, as the summer kicks into full gear they will mature to white, and finally fade to a pretty pink or red in the fall. Sometimes you can see all three colors on one flower head.
Can they be grown in containers?
Absolutely! In fact, this is a great place to use Little Lime hydrangea. Don’t let the size of the ‘Limelight’ stop you! Whichever hydrangea you choose to plant in a container, make sure the container is about twice as wide and deep as the rootball of the hydrangea.
Use potting soil, or a combination of potting soil and garden soil in your container. Plant the same way you would plant any other plant in a container.
Make sure you keep a close eye on your potted hydrangeas. They will require more water than those that are planted in the ground.
Do they need to be deadheaded?
No, it is not necessary for you to deadhead. In fact, I can’t imagine why you would want to. These flowers continue to get more and more beautiful as the season goes on. Beginning as a lime shade of green, turning to white, and finally fading to shades of pink and red these flowers are meant to be savored.
Deadheading will not promote new blossoms on your plants. On the other hand, it will not harm your plants either. If you are looking to lighten your gardening load, deadheading is a task I would skip.
What should I plant with them?
Limelight hydrangeas are beautiful shrubs that are easily complimented with whatever sun-loving plants you wish to pair them with. Some of my favorites are butterfly bush, catmint, and new guinea impatiens.
You should consider the location of your plant to help you choose a companion plant. If they are planted in a formal hedge, boxwoods would pair nicely. However, if planted in a more whimsical location perennials such as coneflowers or salvia would be lovely.
If you have not grown ‘Limelight’ hydrangeas in your garden, I highly recommend giving it a try. They are lovely plants that can add a splash of magic to your yard. The prolific number of flowers will last into the fall, and the dried blossoms can be left on your shrub for winter interest providing year-round beauty.