Two Exceptional Hydrangeas

Hydrangea paniculata 'Dolly'
Hydrangea paniculata. Jacky Parker Photography / Getty Images

Hydrangeas are experiencing a resurgence of interest by both gardeners and breeders. Grandma probably had at least a couple of imposing mop heads in her gardens. In the 1990s, Lacecaps and Oakleafs grabbed most of the attention. During the 2000s, hydrangeas showed their true colors.

Two colorful introductions that continue to generate a good deal of interest are Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight', from Holland, and H. macrophylla 'Lady in Red'.

Hydrangea macrophylla 'Lady in Red'

Hardiness: USDA Hardiness Zones 6 - 9
Mature Size: 2 ft. H x 3 ft. W
Exposure: Partial Shade
Period of Bloom: Early spring into summer
Bonus: High Mildew Resistance

Hydrangea macrophylla 'Lady in Red' offers more than exceptional blooms. This lady provides three seasons of interest. The red stems and red veined leaves are the first indication that this is no ordinary hydrangea. The lacecap flowers open in late spring as either a whitewashed pink or blue, depending on the soil's pH. Either way they will slowly mature to a lush burgundy rose, echoing the colors of the stems and veins. Come fall even the leaves change to a rich purple.

The showy flowers on lacecaps are actually sepals, or sterile decoys, attracting pollinators to the inner circle of less conspicuous true blooms. 'Lady in Red's' blossoms are about 4 - 5 inches across and as they mature, the sepals will flip downward, displaying their burgundy back-sides.

'Lady in Red' was developed by the woody plant guru, Dr. Michael A. Dirr. It is the first patented release from the University's "Continued Adventures in Plant Improvement in the Department of Horticulture and Center for Applied Nursery Research" program, headed by Dr. Dirr. Other plants being tested in the program include: Viburnum, Abelia, Buddleia and Lagerstroemia.

'Lady in Red' makes a wonderful accent plant in a border. Since it is such a compact shrub, it also lends itself to container planting.

When to Prune 'Lady in Red' Hydrangea

Lacecaps bloom on old wood, so prune 'Lady in Red' shortly after it flowers.

Complement the drama of 'Lady in Red' with the soft, green blossoms of Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight'.

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’

Hardiness: USDA Hardiness Zone 4-8
Mature Size: 6 to 8 ft high and wide . Can be pruned for size or trained into a small tree.
Exposure: Full sun to light shade
Period of Bloom: Late July/August Through Autumn

At first glace, Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ appears to be another well behaved hydrangea that’s easy to grow, not particular about soil or water, and hardy from Zones 4-8, no matter what winter throws its way. Not bad for a landscape specimen. But ‘Limelight’ goes one step further when it bursts into bright green blossoms in the heat of the summer.

The large, soft green flowers make a wonderful accent for the golds and blues of late summer. The flower heads range from 10 - 12 inches long and are held upright on the shrub. As the blossoms age they change to a rich, deep pink. The combination of deep pink and soft green on the same shrub is a garden in itself. Soil pH will not affect the knockout colors.

As with most hydrangeas, they also make an excellent cut or dried flower. Here are some tips for drying hydrangeas.

When to Prune Limelight Hydrangea

'Limelight hydrangea blooms on new wood, so prune in late winter or early spring, to give the plants plenty of time to fill in and set buds.

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ is a Proven WinnerR. Proven Winners is an international marketing cooperative of plant propagators that develop new, high performing, hybrid varieties. The plants are extensively trialed and the top performers are put on the market with the Proven WinnersR label.