Limelight Hydrangeas

Limelight, Little Lime & Bobo are a triple delight!

By Susan Silverman 2014
Penn State Master Gardener

When spring begins and the Penn State master gardeners' Helpline is activated, one of the most frequently asked questions is: "Why isn't my hydrangea blooming?"  There are multiple answers: improper pruning, a late spring freeze that blasts the flower buds and greenhouse-grown plants that were not meant for our zone. Any of these conditions can mean no flowers.

The arrival of Endless Summer hydrangea, which blooms on both old and new wood, was supposed to bring joy to everyone, even shear-happy pruners because they could whack away with abandon and still expect blooms. As it turned out, Endless Summer wasn't a joy in my garden. Unless it received the perfect amount of sun and shade, it rebelled by drooping unhappily. I moved it three times to make it happy, and even then, its constant need for water could not be satiated. This was not the species that I longed for.

Limelight Hydrangea

Enter Limelight hydrangea, which is truly everything a hydrangea lover could want. This cultivar of H. paniculata blooms exuberantly and consistently.

With two newer cultivars - Little Lime and Bobo - this series is like the three bears from the Goldilocks fairy tale. Limelight is the papa, Little Lime the mama and Bobo the baby. Each one deserves a space in your landscape and your heart.


Limelight is the 'Papa'

Limelight is the largest, reaching 6-8 feet tall and wide. It is a panicle-type hydrangea that is native to China and Japan. It has an exceptionally strong framework and produces enormous cone-shaped flowers which can measure 8 inches across. These change dramatically in color as the season progresses.

The show begins in late June when the buds unfold and the lime-colored blooms emerge. The flowers, which later become pure white, are so abundant that they totally cover the branches, leaving the green leaves to peek out of this glorious display. By August, the blooms change to a cotton candy pink. The plant is like a beacon in the landscape.

This robust showstopper will succeed if placed in sunlight and rich loamy soil. Other than that, it is not at all demanding. Just keep it well-watered the first year so it can be permanently established and give it sufficient space. Prune just for shape in late winter or early spring before the new growth emerges and fertilize with compost or a balanced granular.

Spray-on Deer Protectant

Murrysville's deer have not touched any of my Limelight hydrangeas - they are too busy eating my daylilies. However, I routinely spray them and other susceptible plants with Plotsaver, a totally organic product that works by both smell and taste, and is available at Lowe's and some local nurseries. Here is the thing, though: We have had a very, very rainy summer. These products do not continue to work if there is more than an inch of rain. They must be reapplied.

Little Lime hydrangea

Little Lime is the go-to plant if you do not have the space that Limelight requires. It has all the spectacular attributes but less stature, maturing to just 3-5 feet tall and wide. This cultivar can be positioned mid to back of the border. Its demands are similar. Give it full sun, well-drained soil and room to develop. It will reward you with a spectacular show of flowers that follow the same color changes.

Endless Summer hydrangea

Bobo, the baby in the family, is also called Ilvobo. This is a very compact cultivar - 2-3 feet tall and wide at maturity. Bobo  forms a compact mound with a sturdy framework and blooms abundantly with the same enormous flowers as Limelight. This is a perfect plant to showcase at the front of the border. The only drawback is the fact that it is so captivating that it is impossible to look at this perfect little one without searching your landscape for other spaces where it can work its charm. Just like potato chips, you can't stop at one Bobo. I have three.

Tree Hydrangeas

I have saved the best for last. My most spectacular landscape addition is the hydrangea tree. This Limelight  has been trained and pruned to grow high and wide above a sturdy supporting branch that serves as a trunk. It becomes a dwarf tree that will top out at 6-8 feet. The crowning glory is the mounded top filled with blossoms. It creates an all-season show that is unparalleled. My tree made it through the intensely cold winter and came back with an even more vigorous beauty. Give it full sun, good loose soil and enough water the first year to get it well-established. This tree will be the WOW factor in any landscape. It demands attention and deserves it.


Flowering shrub pics

Great new hydrangeas

Cutting gardens


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