These dramatic hydrangea blooms will be the star of your summer garden.
Hydrangeas are one of the most beloved shrubs to plant in the garden, with their dramatic, long-lasting blooms and low-maintenance habits. And the new-ish Limelight variation, with its lime green blossoms and tree-like growth, has become a popular pick. But before you add this beautiful plant to your landscaping, here's everything you need to know to help your Limelight hydrangea grow and thrive in your garden.
What Are Limelight Hydrangeas?
This unique breed of paniculata hydrangea was first patented in 2002, It features bold, long-lasting blooms that tend toward the cream, green, rose, and burgundy end of the spectrum. It can grow like a shrub or in a more tree-like look with pruning, and is the perfect addition to a cutting garden.
Like other hydrangeas, the best time to plant a Limelight hydrangea is in fall or early spring, so it has time to take root before the heat of summer.
Limelight Hydrangea Care
Caring for Limelight hydrangea is similar to caring for other hydrangea breeds. And like other hydrangeas, Limelight needs plenty of room to grow. "Mature width is six feet—we want to give these plants the space to be show stoppers," says Tamara Hogan, plant expert at Fast Growing Trees. "Sometimes people will want things to fill in really quickly and they will overcrowd their plant."
Hogan also suggests placing hydrangeas (along with rhododendrons and lilacs) at least 50 feet away from black walnut trees. "Black walnut trees release a compound called juglone, which in causes wilting, yellowing, or death."
The Limelight hydrangea thrives in partial to full sunlight. "In growing zones 6 to 8, where summers are hot and dry, they will do best if the plant has access to part shade throughout the day," Hogan says. "It's better for them to get morning sun versus afternoon, when the light is less hot and intense. Planting in zones 4 to 6, which includes the Northeast and Midwest, you can expect shorter and more mild summers and you can plant in more sunny locations."
Paniculata hydrangea like the Limelight hydrangea prefer well-drained soil with a bit of acid to it, and a natural mulch to help keep the soil moist. "It is common to see suggestions for gravel or rocks in landscape beds as an option for mulch, but this can add heat and compaction around hydrangeas which already can have problems with too much heat," Hogan says. "It is better to do a more wood or soil-based mulch."
Don't bother using tricks like adding coffee grounds or garden lime to change the color of the flowers—Limelight hydrangea always bloom in the same color.
You'll need to water your hydrangea plant a bit more at the start—especially in the first two months when you're helping it take root. After it establishes itself in that first year, it'll become a low-maintenance part of your garden. "Hydrangeas will tell you when they are thirsty, which is a nice perk to the plant," Hogan says. "Limelights are no different. But if someone is ever concerned about over or under-watering, just make sure to test the soil with your fingers about two inches down."
Temperature and humidity
Hydrangeas are pretty hardy plants, so they'll thrive in nearly all areas of the U.S. You might see some drooping when the weather is particularly hot.
As part of its low-maintenance vibe, you won't need to do a whole lot of feeding of hydrangea plants—just a little flower fertilizer in spring and again in late summer.
Types of Limelight Hydrangea
There are a few different versions of Limelight hydrangea available, including more petite versions that might fit better in a smaller garden. The original cultivar reaches six to eight feet in size, while Limelight Prime is four to six feet, and Little Lime grows to no more than four feet.
To keep your Limelight hydrangea looking full and lush, you'll want to prune away dead branches and cut back by about a third of the growth in late fall or early spring. (Don't wait too long, or you'll cut back the new wood where the hydrangea will bloom, and end up without those big gorgeous blooms.)
Propagating Limelight Hydrangea
It's illegal to propagate plants for 20 years after they're first patented, so you ran afoul of the law if you did it in previous years. But since it was patented in 2002, this is the first year you're in the clear to propagate your own Limelight hydrangea, Hogan says. "Legally, the breeder is able to continue to renew the trademarked name of Limelight, but they are not allowed to renew a patent," she says. "So it is public domain now."
Cuttings are the best way to propagate Limelight hydrangea, using a stem from the plant that's cut right above the leaf node, so you get stem and leaf in it, Hogan says. "It's best to do this in the spring while the wood is still fresh and green. Brown stems have started to harden off and can be a little tougher to root compared to the green ones."
"Put cuttings into either a prepared plant tray with potting mix and mulch mixed together or Jiffy plugs," Hogan says. "Water them in and continue to mist or keep the soil moist while the roots start to establish."
Growing from Seeds
Limelight hydrangea grow best when purchased as a plant, not from seed—unless you're very patient. It can take a few years for a seed to reach the same size as a plant from the nursery.
Growing in Pots
Limelight hydrangea can be grown as part of a container garden, though this works best for the Limelight Prime or Little Lime varietals. Choose a heavy planter to help avoid toppling as the hydrangea shrub grows. Use a well-draining potting mix and ensure the pot has drainage holes.
Limelight hydrangeas can survive the winter in most of the U.S.—though it has a tougher time in the USDA garden zone 3, which hits a few small areas of the northernmost parts of the U.S.
Common Pests and Diseases
The Limelight hydrangea is a pretty hardy variety, and is resistant to most pests and diseases. It is most susceptible to fungal diseases like powdery mildew or rust. which can be treated with fungicides or neem oil.
When Does the Limelight Hydrangea Bloom?
You can enjoy the gorgeous blooms on Limelight for most of the summer, from July to September, though they'll change color over that time from the pretty lime green that gives this hydrangea varietal its name to a deep burgundy color.
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