There aren’t many “Top Performing Flowering Shrubs” lists these days that don’t include Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’. And for good reason. They’re easy to care for, widely available and offer a lot of shrub for the money–growing up to 8′ high and wide.
But when it comes to ‘Limelight’ hydrangeas, there’s so much more to love. Let me count the ways:
1. They’re late bloomers, putting on a spectacular flower show with height and substance in mid-summer after most other flowering shrubs are spent.
2. You get three different bloom colours for the price of one shrub. ‘Limelight’ flowers start out a pale lime green, mellow to cream as the blooms reach football-size in midsummer and then slowly turn rosy in the fall.
3. It’s frothy looks are deceptive; this plant is extraordinarily resilient. Not only does it breeze through our Southern Ontario winters, it’s been lauded for being very urban tolerant and difficult to kill. I can vouch for that–especially the killing part. I’ve planted ‘Limelights’ in two different gardens (one in an urban setting, the other suburban) and never gave them any special treatment. No fertilizer. No special coddling. I even put one in a spot that’s technically full shade. I don’t recommend you do that to your plant (they much prefer full sun to part shade) but I have to say my shrub is doing a great job of filling in an awkward spot where a lot of other (and far less showy shrubs) had turned their noses up.
4. The flower heads keep on looking beautiful all winter long whether in the garden or in a vase. That’s because what you think you’re looking at aren’t petals but sepals. Like hellebores, this hydrangea’s “flowers” are dominated by strong, long-lasting sepals. The actual petals are inconspicuous. So after the petals have faded at the end of the season, the sepals continue their blossom impersonation. Cut some stems for a dried flower arrangement and the flower heads will keep their colour. I love making an outdoor container arrangement with them come fall so I can capitalize on their burnished bronze colour right through to next spring. Leave the rest of the blooms intact on their stems once the snow flies. They’ll turn a dark beige but their lacy texture continues to add interest to the garden.
5. Pruning them is fool-proof. Panicle hydrangeas (particularly ‘Limelight’) have been proven in plant trials to love being pruned. No need to worry about whether you’re trimming old wood or new wood. Just cut the shrub back to about one half its height. This can result in larger flowers and an improved habit.
6. If you don’t have the space, there’s a mini version. ‘Little Lime’™ has the same gorgeous blooms and colouring but only grows from 3 to 5’ in height.