Limelight Hydrangeas In Bloom

August 29 2014 (29)I know this is the mid westerner in me talking, but is there any shrub more widely hybridized and marketed and eventually disappointing than the hydrangea? I can barely keep up with the new cultivars. Some are blue.  Some are blue and pink.  Some are red. Some claim to bloom all summer.  A list of  of all the names would take better than a paragraph.  All Summer Beauty, Nikko Blue, Endless Summer, Pinky Winky, Vanilla Strawberry, Invinciball – the list is long. The promises made for these new introductions are big. The performance of various cultivars of hydrangeas in the mid west-a mixed report. I drive by big plantings of hydrangeas every day that are all about the leaves with precious little in the way of flowers. Some are planted in much too much shade.  But others just are not great bloomers. If you are a gardener in my area, and have a big love for hydrangeas that bloom reliably, consider the paniculata hybrids, especially the Lime lights.

August 29 2014 (26)We did have a terrible winter-no gardener would dispute this.  But the hydrangeas I see everywhere with one bloom or so is a usual thing.  Some cultivars bloom on old wood.  In a hard winter, the bloom shoots freeze.  Though the plant may come back and thrive, there are little to no blooms.  Some cultivars rely on more temperate zones than ours.  Some cultivars seem to bloom with abandon for growers, but fail to deliver with gardeners.  The Limelight hydrangeas pictured above are on a very busy street in my area, in full sun. They are blooming their hearts out.  I have no idea what the gardener in charge does for these plants, but they are gorgeous. It could very well that this gardener leaves well enough alone.  This brick wall would be lonely indeed without the hydrangeas.

August 23 2014 (14) I plant professionally, meaning plants that cannot or do not perform are discouraging.  I hope that every landscape I design and install encourages my clients to become involved, take over, and become interested in gardening when I am finished.  This means I favor plants that have some success features built in. I like plants that thrive. Hydrangeas in full bloom are breathtakingly beautiful. Hydrangeas are by nature lusty growing and just about fool proof, given a proper placement.  If you are keen for the flowers, and lots of them, Limelight delivers.


I have read so many articles claiming that hydrangeas thrive in the shade.  Hmm.  The shrubs may tolerate part shade, but good blooming on hydrangeas in my area asks for a fair amount of sun.  Do  not plant hydrangeas in shade, if you have a love for their flowers. They like regular moisture – the leaves are large, and thin.  Those leaves will crisp if the plant goes dry.  I have my hydrangeas at home on a drip zone, so when they need a drink, I can provide it right to the roots.  I do not recommend overhead watering except when it comes from the sky.

DSC_4001The old Annabelle hydrangea is as charming and as floppy as ever. They bloom early, usually in June.  I like them placed on top of a wall, where their cascading habit looks graceful and deliberate.  The Oakleaf hydrangea is just as beautiful in leaf as in flower – maybe more so.  This bony structured, open growing hydrangea with its loosely arranged blooms-gorgeous.  Climbing hydrangea does tolerate a lot of shade.  It sits for a long time after planting.  Once it gets going, it can engulf a wall.

DSC_3982Pink and blue hydrangeas perform sporadically in my area.  There are neighborhoods where they are lush and floriferous.  I only have one client whose Nikko blue hydrangeas bloom heavily every year.  They are grown in full sun, in a fairly protected location.  The idea of using chemicals to alter the Ph of the soil is not my idea of gardening. Their is a hydrangea cultivar hydrangea macrophylla “Nantucket Blue”, for those gardeners with blue hydrangea envy.  I have never grown it, but I have seen it for sale with the caveat “acidify the soil with sulfur for a deeper blue color”. There are those times when I am envious of what gardeners in other parts of the country are able to grow that I cannot, but that feeling is not that deep seated.

DSC_4046Lime lights are very big growing plants.  Mine at home are over 8 feet tall this year.  They have loved all of the rain.  If your space is smaller, plant a smaller growing version.  Little Lime tops out at 4-5 feet. Little Lamb is another smaller growing panicle hydrangea.

hydrangea-Bombshell.jpgI am trying a new cultivar this year. “Bombshell’ is a dwarf cultivar that typically grows in a rounded mound to only 2-3′ tall and to 3-4′ wide. It was discovered growing in Boskoop, The Netherlands, in May of 2003 as a naturally occurring branch mutation on Hydrangea paniculata ‘Grandiflora’. It is particularly noted for its dwarf/compact shape, abundant star-shaped sterile flowers with elliptic sepals, dense nearly round flower panicles, and free blooming habit. It blooms earlier and longer than most other panicle hydrangeas.” – this description is from the Missouri Botanical Garden. I recently planted them with a collection of perennials that mature to about the same height.  Big growing shrubs that are pruned to fit small space always have that uncomfortable and anxious feeling about them.  A hydrangea planted with all the room it needs to grow is not only less maintenance, it looks good.

DSC_3983The Lime Lights are putting on a particularly good show this year.

DSC_4000It wouldn’t be late summer in Michigan without them.



  1. Am past president of American Hydrangea Society.

    Best thing to know about hydrangeas? Make a rule about hydrangeas and they will make a liar of you.

    New cultivars? $$$$, the hell with details of plant viability.

    Garden & Be Well, XO T

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Tara, hydrangeas will make a liar of every gardener-you are right about that. I do see lots of new introductions that have not been trialed long enough. But that said, this is a shrub well worth exploring. Good to hear from you. all the best, Deborah

  2. Love the “Limelight” hydrangeas from Proven Winners. Beautiful showy display of lime green blossoms that will turn to pink in a few weeks. The flowers can be cut and used fresh in a bouquet or also dried. Thanks for the pretty images. Happy Labor day.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Happy Labor Day to you too, Belinda. The Lime Lights are so late this year-in full bloom on Labor Day-this is a first for me. Not that I mind. Best, Deborah

  3. Deborah, My Limelight, planted in part shade, has also gone bonkers this season. Always a good bloomer, this season the display is amazing. I suggest it’s a combination of weather and stress. Hydrangeas thrive in cool damp weather such as you find in the Seattle area. Also shrubs will often react to stress by producing lots of flowers – it’s their way of insuring the specie will survive.

    My Hibiscus syriacus ‘Lavender Chiffon’ has provided another stunning display. Late to leaf out and flower, it’s branches are weighted down with blossoms. H. ‘Sugar Tip’ has also put on quite a show. The good news about these pretties is they have never reseeded in my patch.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Nancy, I am attributing the big show from the Limelights to the heavy and persistent rain. Over at our manufacturing place Branch, a hedge of them is as beautiful as they have ever been. We don’t water them, and they are planted in gravel. I am interested to hear about the lavender chiffon. You make me want to plant them! Thanks for writing, my friend. Best, Deborah

  4. As always you delight us with your posting, just in the nick of time, I am so discouraged with my variegated climbing hydrangea that I planted two years ago, lots of leaves, no growth. I was just about to move it, so now I will wait one more year per your advice. Many thanks!

    • Deborah Silver says

      BP, climbing hydrangeas need a lot of time for them to make up their mind to grow.Patience is a good thing with them. Thanks for writing, Deborah

  5. Just planted 8 little limes. So happy with my lime lights. Thanks to you Deborah. Smiles all around.

  6. Wow they are gorgeous!

    • Deborah Silver says

      No kidding Laurin. They make every gardener look good. I like them in masses, better than as individual shrubs. A mass of them tones down those coarse leaves and gawky branches going every which way. Best, Deborah

  7. Fabulous photos…who wouldn’t love to have such a wondrous display of sumptuous white flowers. I adore my Limelights and am so glad that I have a number of them. However right now, the hydrangea that is making my heart go pitter patter big time is Vanilla Strawberry. Love the gracefully arching red stems and oh, those flower heads…they are huge. My Bombshells have been a bust but I think the fault is mine…too much shade. Thanks to reading this post, i will be motivated to move them this fall.

  8. Can you suggest how and when to prune the limelights (in the Midwest)?
    Thanks! I love hydrangeas 🙂

  9. As to shade or not, I think it depends on your climate. In this part of the world hydrangeas need to be in the shade or they are burnt to a crisp in summer. People who plant them in the sun have to cover them with shade cloth on hot days to keep them alive.

  10. Hello Deborah!
    Every year at this time I expect your post about the Limelights and every year I just enjoy your pictures…Here in London I don’t see many of them, I don’t know why but they are not planted very often….However I have been many times in Boskoop and there is truly the paniculata can see them everywhere. I had the opportunity to meet the Limelight breeder 2 years ago and we had nice conversations about plants. I met also Alex Shoemaker who is the breeder of H.P. Bombshell I tried Bomshell in my garden in Italy but was a real failure because It didn’t bloom again, I kept the plant for 4 years but I didn’t get any flowers, maybe they don’t like Italy, who knows…so I am looking forward to see how they grow in Michigan…All the best from London, Giacomo

  11. limelights are an absolute go-to hydrangea for the midwest gardener! i have put in several “little limes” over the past three years. totally maintance free–blooms no matter where they are put. i bought a couple of them at the end of the growing season last year on a clearance table, stuck them (still in producer’s pots) on the side of my house. even after the dreadful winter we had here in indiana, those little limes (shamefully admitting that they are still in their original pots) are blooming their heads off.

    i think the hydrangea lore that they thrive in the shade must have originated in the very, deep south. back where we are from, southeast alabama, the old mopheads/french hydrangeas are spectacular in shade–shade being a subjective term. they typically did great in light to semi-dark shade–several hours of morning sun being the gold standard. total, deep & dark shade would only produce nice, green leaves plus a sporadic bloom or two. they would become spindly and non-prolific in both full sun and full shade down there.

    the newer endless summer & all of it’s various knock offs did well down there after having 3 or 4 seasons to establish.

    i am a bit of a hydrangea addict 🙂

  12. Hi Deborah, I so admire your landscape style! Because you are so familiar with limelights would you answer a question for the little limes have the exact same flower head as the regular lime? In the grower pots the little lime appear to nbe creamier in color than the white color the regular limes achieve.
    I hope to get to your shop again soon. It is so beautiful & inspiring.
    Thank you

    • Deborah Silver says

      Sherry, I don’t know the answer to that question! I would call a nursery, and ask-like Wiegands. Best, Deborah

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