How to Care for Limelight Hydrangeas - Kelley Nan (2022)

Since moving into our home (how is this our seventh spring?!) we try to do something to add to/improve our landscape, each year. But, the very first year we moved, the priority at the top of my list was installing some sort of flowering statement hedge along the side of our house. Without a doubt, what we went with was the single best decision we’ve made for the outside of our home. Today, I’m sharing all the details on what becomes a hot topic each time I share on social media– how we care for our limelight hydrangeas.

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NOTE: As a disclaimer, I am not an expert gardener and barely have a green thumb. These are the steps we take, that work for us, in growing these lovely blooms, and after a few years of requests, I’m sharing our methods. As always, climate zone, light, soil composition, etc. are all factors in what will thrive — and what may not — when planting limelight hydrangeas or any other shrub.

How We Decided On Limelight Hydrangeas

As an FYI, we live in north Georgia and fall somewhere between zones 7 and 8. We get humidity, we get hot summers, and we see all four seasons. Our soil is also filled with red clay. Now that we have the basics disclosed, let’s get to it!

I love lush vegetation lining homes, fences… you name it — I think it serves as an ornamental frame of sorts. It hides imperfections along the base and gives the feeling of a lived in, mature home setting. We have a slightly elevated deck and I wanted something that would *hopefully* grow tall enough to cover the gap between the decking and the ground, that would also grow outward to form somewhat of a hedge. While hydrangeas aren’t evergreens and the blooms aren’t around year-round, they only appear “dead” for a couple months out of the year. Even when they don’t have blooms, the green leaves are big, beautiful and lush. And, each year, they come back bigger and better than the year before. I wanted something that would be hearty and that would provide lots of opportunity to clippings, too! While there are tons of varieties of hydrangeas and I adore them all — especially in the pretty shades of blue — we had to opt for a “panicle” hydrangea variety that would thrive in the hot sun. While most colorful hydrangeas seem to do better in less volatile weather, panicle hydrangeas are a variety that’s durable and loves the sun.

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What Are the Benefits of Limelight Hydrangeas?

In the hot (north) Georgia temps with that side of the house receiving almost full sun for the majority of the day, our limelight hydrangeas have thrived since the very first year. While I fail a lot in the yard, I can confidently say from several years of experience, they are:

  1. easy to grow and hard to mess up
  2. require limited care
  3. grow quickly
  4. produce huge blooms
  5. cover a lot of ground/space
  6. are excellent for yielding awesome cuttings for the house
  7. take on different hues from late summer to fall

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I just splurged on THIS new BIG vase — it’s already in position on our breakfast nook sideboard and I can’t wait to start loading it up with big limelight blooms!

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How to Care for Limelight Hydrangeas - Kelley Nan (4)

Where Do You Get Limelight Hydrangeas?

We get ours from a local nursery but depending on availability in your area, they actually have farms that ship them in containers through Amazon (HERE). Have you ever ordered larger landscaping (trees, bushes, etc.) online? I’ve never ordered shrubs online but I have gotten plants delivered before.

When to Plant Limelight Hydrangeas

While spring is a great time to plant them, I *believe* we planted ours in the fall, before it got too cold. Our first year after moving they bloomed prolifically, and since then, continues to burst with blooms each year.

How Deep of a Hole Do You Dig to Plant Limelight Hydrangeas?

We had a landscaper plant the limelight hydrangeas along the side of our house, but Dave planted the firelight hydrangeas along the back of our house. He dug the holes deep enough for the firelights — without the plastic container they came in — to be positioned about 1-2″ below ground level. When in doubt, follow the care card that will come with your panicle hydrangeas or ask your local nursery.

The Limelight Hydrangeas Are Planted… Now What?

When you first plant your hydrangeas, make sure they receive water from you or nature regularly. The Limelights will produce some blooms in their first year and will produce more prolifically in subsequent years. Since first planting them and making sure they were well watered in those initial weeks/months, we no longer give them water aside from what they get from rain. We also don’t fertilize.

How and When Do You Prune Limelight Hydrangeas?

Depending on who you ask, you will probably get lots of opinions on this topic. However, we use the same method and timeline year after year and it hasn’t failed us yet! While some people only cut the tops of the hydrangeas back, we actually cut almost the entire shrubs down. We were a little tardy this year but we typically prune the limelights in mid-February — plenty of time before new growth is expected. This year, we (and be “we”, I mean “Dave” 😉 ) pruned them the last week of February. We also cut them down, almost to the ground, leaving maybe 12″ (give or take a few). Here’s what they looked like just before they were pruned…

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Brown, crunchy, and not great. Here’s after they were cut…

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When Do Limelight Hydrangeas Bloom?

While they start budding new leaves in early spring, they don’t typically start to bloom flowers until mid-summer. The blooms will last and turn from white to green to a deep purple/burgundy on into the fall. Last year, I documented the blooming stages (and how rapidly they sprung up!) on Instagram stories. I went back and took some screenshots of the growth cycle this past year. Within a month of pruning last year (and the hydrangeas looking as they do above), they started to sprout new growth.

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And they move quickly! They had already turned into small, lush, green bushes about two weeks from their initial growth.

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Just over a month later, they were already climbing as tall as the vertical decking…

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And two months after that, they had grown past the deck railing and were sprouting white blooms all over. If you aren’t familiar with limelight hydrangeas, these blooms start off small — they are more cone-shaped, too — but most end up growing larger than my head. Literally. They’re huge!

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And at that same time, here are the younger firelight hydrangeas along the back of our house. They’re another panicle hydrangea that are incredibly similar to limelights — but, their final color is more fiery red.

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How Big Do Limelight Hydrangeas Get?

Here’s a bigger, better look at how the limelight hydrangeas look, just before they start blooming. On the side of the house, we have six total; while they’ve always grown tall and wide, they’ve grown taller and wider with each year. I would guess since they have matured, they are somewhere between 6′ and 7′ tall and wide now.

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We have a slight spacing where the gutter is coming out but aside from that, the limelights have essentially grown into each other to form a big hedge. I believe there are four shrubs present in this photo.

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They are tall so they do bend a bit under their own weight but unless we have strong winds or crazy rains, they do pretty well. When I start to cut from them, I will go after the heavier stems first and of course, try to cut from different areas so it isn’t obvious blooms are missing. Here’s my sweet, late Penny girl after cutting some stems for arrangements one afternoon a few years ago — check out that bloom on the counter. That is one bloom! See? Bigger than a human head!

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The bushes are covered in blooms all over, too — not just up top, but down low, in the middle, etc. Plus, they continue to grow and develop new blooms from summer through fall — they don’t all hit at once. Here’s my Eliza girl last year (where does the time go?!)

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I have tried other kinds of hydrangeas and despite planting them in the shade, giving them plenty of water, using fertilizer, etc. and have never had any luck. Like, any luck at all (I told you I don’t have a green thumb!) But… panicle hydrangeas — both in limelights and firelights, now — have never let me down. They’re just so. dang. easy. If you’re looking for a hearty, hard-to-kill blooming shrub, these are proven winners.

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