Limelight Hydrangea

limelight hedge 2The photograph above has been repinned from my pinterest page, 10 times more than any other image I have ever posted.  I understand the sentiment behind that.  This cultivar of hydrangea paniculata, Limelight,  bred by a Dutch breeder whose name is little known, and marketed solely by the patent holder, Spring Meadow Farms, is is gem of a summer blooming shrub. This ever willing and easy to grow shrub begins blooming at the end of July in my zone, and represents well into the fall.

Limelight-hydrangeas.jpgHydrangea is another word for summer in the garden.  They grow fast, and bloom profusely.   Small plants gain size and stature just a short time after planting.  Given how fast they grow, if you buy Limelights in pots, be prepared to water those root balls frequently after you plant, until they get established.  I water mine via drip irrigation; hydrangeas appreciate regular moisture.  Once they are established, this is about all the care they require.  They deliver so much, and ask for so little.

limelight-hydrangeas.jpgI get emails almost every day about them.  Will the Limelights grow in Atlanta, or Montreal, or upstate New York, or Houston, Arkansas,  or Canada?  Will they thrive in shade?  I have no knowledge of the performance of this shrub outside of my own zone.  Should you have an interest in growing this shrub, contact your local nursery.  See what they say.  In my zone, this hydrangea is happy in full sun with adequate water, and it will bloom, although not as well, in part sun.

limelight-hydrangeas.jpgA Limelight hydrangea is just about the most easy going and tolerant shrub it has ever been my pleasure to plant.  The big coarse leaves provide lots of texture.  They can endure the coldest winter.  They do not require any staking.  Flower heads that are cut will dry and be beautiful in a vase indoors-almost indefinitely. Once they begin to bloom, every garden featuring them gets gorgeous.

hydrangeas.jpgI have planted plenty of Limelight hydrangeas over the course of the past 9 years.  They are easy to grow.  They are happy in no end of environments.  I would want for all of my clients to experience the pleasure they provide in late summer.  How do I maintain them?  I prune in late March, or early April.  If I have a mind to keep them short, I prune them in late March or early April-when the buds swell.

Limelights-in-a-pot.jpgI do feed them once a year with a balanced fertilizer, although I suspect they would be fine without in good compost enriched soil.  They are happy in containers, as long as they are able to spend the winter in the ground.  Tree form/topiary Limelights can be maintained in this fashion for a number of years.

limelight-hydrangeas.jpgI usually prune them in the same manner as a shag haircut.  I prune the top branches short.  I leave the lower branches long.  If you need the Limelights under 5 feet tall at maturity, trim to 30 inches tall in early spring.  Trim again in early June.  the second trimming is crucial to produce a shorter display.  Plan for a late July bloom.  If you like your Limelights really tall, trim off the previous years flower heads.  Leave them tall.  Plan to eventually under plant them with another shrub that will disguise those long bare legs.   Deciduous shrubs ask for a serious yearly dressing down-should you want foliage to the ground. If you need your hydrangeas to be tall, go easy on the pruning phase-and deal with the bare legs. The other option is to plant hydrangea “Little Lime”.  The flowers and habit are the same as Limelight, but it matures at 4 to 5 feet.

limelight-hydrangeas.jpgThe Limelight hydrangea is a garden friend without so many demands.  Prune, or do not prune so much.  They are happy with whatever water you can provide.  If they need water, the leaves will droop in a dramatic way-you can’t miss it.  It is just about the most gardener friendly shrub it has ever been my pleasure to meet.  This has not been the best gardening season for me.  I have plenty of plants not doing so well with the cold and the relentless rain.  But my hydrangeas are breathtaking-as usual.

limelight-hydrangeas.jpgI truly appreciate the work that has been done by the breeder and the distributor to make this shrub available to me.  It is easy to grow, beautiful in leaf, and spectacular in bloom. I planted lots of them in my garden, and today I am really happy I did. The Limelight hydrangeas are illuminating my late summer garden.   Consider planting some Lime lights.  You won’t be sorry.  I promise you will be charmed. What says summer better than the hydrangeas in bloom?



  1. Deer eat them??

  2. Liz Gallardo says

    I re-pinned a limelight picture and then much to my delight, followed the link to your blog to discover that I know your work well! I’ve been to DGW many times over the years and have done the garden tour including your lovely home. It actually made me laugh a bit to discover I pinned that picture, because in fact I grew up a block away from your house and know it’s evolution over the past 45 years. I was looking for information on Limelight and little Lime when I did my search and stumbled upon great memories. Thanks for reminding me 🙂

  3. I can attest to the fact that they grow marvelously on the eastern shore of Virginia.They are a fabulous plant!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Lynne, I am happy to hear from a number of people that Limelights do well for them. I would not be happy to garden in a zone where I could not grow them. Deborah

  4. We have had them for three years and no issues with deer, yet. We struggle to keep a hosta going, so the deer know us all too well. Zone 7 Northern Va.
    I can only say that I agree with Deborah 100% on everything she has said, and just wish we had found the limelight when it first came out. But better late than never! (We have probably 25 different hydrangeas and viburnums (some are very similar to hydrangea) and the limelight is probably number one, and for the time of year, is number one. Only thing missing is fragrance 🙂

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Peter-my sentiments exactly. There are so many cultivars of hydrangeas now-but none performs like Lime Light.

  5. That photograph led me to your blog as well. I planted 3 limelights at the end of May and was surprised when they produced beautiful flowers in July. I would just stand and stare at them. We have also had tons of rain and very mild temps. I was disappointed when my limelights drooped over. I didn’t think they were supposed to do that. I plan to follow your pruning instructions next spring. Mine have already started to turn pink and I’m thinking it’s because of the cool temps. They are still beautiful though! I’m already planning on planting many more this fall.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Sherry, I need my Limelights to be tall, so I prune them lightly one year, and more than light the next. The years that I do not prune much, I have droopy stems. But much less droopy than the Annabelle hydrangeas. Deborah

      • Hi Deborah, thanks for your information. My hydrangeas grow very well, maybe too much because I’m having a terrible time with all stems/flowerheads of my Limelights drooping heavily every year regardless of how much I trim, which I have been doing only once in late winter/early spring in Maryland. Any suggestions?

        • Deborah Silver says

          Dear Mark, it is too hard to tell from your description what might be causing your drooping.How they are sited and watered can be a factor. Maybe you prune too hard. Hard pruning results in fewer and bigger flowers-more likely to droop. Lighter pruning results in more flowers that are smaller, and weigh less.My suggestion is to look for a group of Limelights in someone else’s yard that are growing how you would like yours to grow-and observe. all the best to you, Deborah

          • Serena Wiedemann says

            Hello, I have dozens of limelight’s on my property. Without question the ones I pruned to reach a shorter height got giant heads and then flopped over. The ones I barely prune or even just remove the dead heads have medium size heads that do NOT droop at all. Pruning ruined the plants.

        • Sophia Pilling says

          Hi Mark, I hope you and Deborah don’t mind me weighing in, are you positive they’re true Limelights? I find that the paniculata ‘Grandiflora’, or the original PeeGees droop horrible if they’re pruned like Limelights. They look similar, the flowers aren’t quite as striking. Just my experience, thought I’d throw it out there!

  6. Found you recently and I’m loving you posts and pics. I have three lovely limelights that I’ve had in my Toronto garden for about five years and I’m moving to a property north of the city and am desperate to take them with me. Can I do it now or go back for them in the fall? Wish you were here to help with new three acre property. Your words and work are inspiring. Many thanks

    • Deborah Silver says

      Minda, I have never transplanted a mature Lime light. Given how fast they grow, I would just plant new ones. And given that you have 3 acres, I would plant lots of them. Deborah

  7. Yes, the deer nibbled mine down in early summer. Erratically. They didn’t keep returning to them, once I put some deer repellent down. But it did affect the blooms.

  8. Hi Debra!

    I just posted a photo of my front parterre. If you look you can see the row of Limelights planted to the “back”! Of course, I pilfered the idea from you! LOL! I am going to try to squeeze in a row of Taxus x media Hicksii behind them. There isn’t much room but it can go one of two ways…succeed or fail! I’m game! My front parterre garden backs up to my neighbor’s back yard and their primary colored swingset! Gah! Too bad I can’t just Photoshop their swingset in the real world!
    Thanks for all the inspiration!



    • Deborah Silver says

      Andie, your enthusiasm is infectious! It will be plenty of years before the Hicks yews get taller than the hydrangeas, but the wait will be worth it. Deborah

  9. Deer do eat hydrangeas in my area, Massachusetts. My yard is bordered by woodland so I have plenty of those tall rodents.
    LiquidFence is the solution.
    Those hydrangeas are magnificent.

  10. Linda Hagler says

    We have a lot of deer. Our property backs up to the woods. Deer will eat the young plants so we put a wire pen around. Once they get big, they don’t touch them. Give it a try.

  11. Kimberly Gray says

    I loved the Limelight Hydrangeas when my landscaper planted them last year. Unfortunately, this year they haven’t bloomed. It’s August 17th and the others in my area are blooming beautifully. I can’t understand why mine are not? The plants are healthy and vigorous. They’re also in a bed with some other varieties like the oak leaf and snowball kind. Those bushes are blooming great.

    Can you tell me why the limelights aren’t blooming?

    • Deborah Silver says

      Kimberly, where are you? could you email a picture? I don’t have enough info to even hazard a guess. Could a nursery local to you help you out? Deborah

    • All plants need time to feel comfy in their new home. Give them time, some water when they need it and you will be rewarded. If yours are not in full sun, that could be the answer.

      Another thought, these plants may have been really rootbound. If your service did not score the rootzone at planting, the shrubs may be taking more time establishing roots. My Limelights did not bloom much the first season, but this year, they are fabulous. I am a landscape professional and have seen this several times. Best of luck. Mary

  12. Hi Deborah,

    I’ve been following your blog for awhile and really look forward to your posts. I am in love with Limelight hydrangeas. I have 13 on my property in Wisconsin along with some other hydrangeas: Annabelle, Incrediball, Invincibelle Spirit, Pinky Winky, and Quickfire. None of them outperform the Limelight. I know I will continue to add them to our yard. Gorgeous shrub!

  13. Ashley in VA says

    How far apart would you recommend planting Little Limes? I’d love to achieve your wall-of-limelight-look. I planted Penny Mac hydrangeas a few years ago, but I feel like they are still too far apart to make the statement I wanted.

  14. Maggie Overmeyer says

    Deborah, my neighbor just trimmed her Limelight hydrangeas (4) of them pretty severely. It’s October… I’m afraid it’s at the wrong time of year to trim them. Will this ruin them? Maggie

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Maggie, I have seen it done in the fall, with no ill effects the following spring. Hydrangeas are pretty resilient. best, Deborah

  15. Jacqueline says


    Is it strange/ugly to plant a limelight next to/slightly behind an Annabelle?
    I have one I need to transplant but have very little space with full sun.

  16. Hi Deborah, Big fan here! I have a couple of hundred Limelights that were planted last summer at the property I manage. Do you think I should go easy on the pruning this first spring or go for it like usual? I know they’re easygoing, but wondered what you would do. Thank you so much, I love your work.

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