How to Grow and Care for Limelight Hydrangea

limelight hydrangeas

The Spruce / Autumn Wood

Limelight hydrangea is a patented hydrangea cultivar with dramatic blooms that range from lime green to creamy white to dusty rose and even burgundy during a long flowering season from July through September. It was bred from paniculata hydrangeas, whose name refers to the shape of the flower trusses.

The leaves of this fast-growing hardy shrub also feature attractive fall foliage, becoming tinged with deep red. This color show is as elegant and thrilling as it is reliable and looks great in a variety of landscape design styles. The flowers also look very nice in the vase as cut flowers, and can be dried for long-lasting decor. Wait until they start to turn blush pink before cutting them for drying.

Plant Limelight hydrangea in the early spring or fall.

Like all hydrangeas, the plant is toxic to humans, and toxic to pets.

Common Name Limelight hydrangea
Botanical Name Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight'
Family Hydrangeaceae
Plant Type Shrub
Mature Size 6-8 ft. tall, 6-8 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Full, partial
Soil Type Well-drained
Soil pH Acidic
Bloom Time Summer
Flower Color Green, white, pink
Hardiness Zones 3-9 (USDA)
Native Area Cultivar, no native range
Toxicity Toxic to humans, toxic to pets
closeup of limelight hydrangeas
​The Spruce / Autumn Wood
limelight hydrangea shrubs
​The Spruce / Autumn Wood
limelight hydrangea shrub
​The Spruce / Autumn Wood 
Pink tinged white hydrangea flowers
Limelight hydrangeas feature dramatic color changes through the season; in autumn the white blooms change to bright rose pink.  Chrissy / Flickr / CC by 2.0

Limelight Hydrangea Care

Limelight hydrangea is popular because it requires very little maintenance, is easy to grow, and has no serious problems.

Limelight hydrangeas make a good landscape specimen plant but they do need room to spread. The shrub does not like to compete with other plants at its base so it's best to avoid planting aggressive ground cover plants around them (like vinca or pachysandra). Give them a good natural mulch like shredded pine bark.

Light

The ideal amount of sunlight depends on your climate. In warm climates, it is best to choose a planting location with partial sun in the morning and not afternoon, as hot afternoon sun in the summer can cause the blooms to dry out. If you live in a colder zone, you can plant your hydrangea in full sun, but avoid a windy spot.

Soil

Hydrangeas in general prefer a rich, well-drained soil. For paniculata hydrangeas, a slightly acidic with a pH between 6.1-7.0 works well. Unlike other hydrangea types, the soil pH does not affect Limelight's bloom color. If the shallow roots become exposed over time, add more soil and compost to keep them protected.

Water

Hydrangeas have moderate watering needs once they are established. They do best in evenly moist soil. In a dry spell, give your hydrangea a good deep watering once or twice a week as needed to mimic rainfall.

Temperature and Humidity

This is a very hardy variety of hydrangea that can withstand winters down to USDA zone 3. However it's best to plant it where it won't be vulnerable to damage from high winds. Hydrangeas don't require any special humidity conditions. A muggy hot summer day may cause blooms to droop a bit.

Fertilizer

Hydrangeas benefit from light fertilization. Apply a granular flower food fertilizer in the spring, and again in late summer. For the amount to use, follow the product label instructions. Alternatively, some composted manure as a top dressing in autumn is also a good way to feed hydrangeas and keep roots healthy.

Types of Limelight Hydrangea

In addition to original Limelight hydrangea, two other cultivars have been developed:

  • 'Limelight Prime', a smaller variety that only reaches 4 to 6 feet in height.
  • 'Little Lime', the smallest variety with a compact, mature height of 4 feet.

Pruning

Like all panicle hydrangeas, limelight hydrangea blooms on new wood (growth from the current year) so any pruning should be done in the late winter or early spring before new growth starts. Remove any dead wood and broken branches and cut down all the healthy stems by about one-third.

Propagating

Limelight hydrangea is a registered trademark and propagating it by cuttings or seeds is prohibited.

Potting and Repotting

The smaller varieties of Limelight hydrangea are suitable for container growing. A terracotta pot is ideal because it lets excess moisture evaporate and the soil stays cooler than in plastic. The material is also heavy enough so the plant does not topple over easily. Choose a container that is one or two sizes larger than the current pot, with a wide, flat base and large drainage holes. Fill the container with loose, well-draining potting mix.

Roots growing out of the drainage holes will indicate when the hydrangea needs repotting to a larger container.

Overwintering

Limelight hydrangeas are hardy plants that do not need winter protection when planted in garden soil although a layer of mulch around the base insulates the roots against the cold.

The roots of container-grown Limelight hydrangeas, on the other hand, are highly susceptible to frost damage and need protection. Either place the container in a larger pot or box and fill the space with mulch or sand for insulation, like a silo, or wrap the sides of the container with bubble wrap or burlap and an additional layer of plastic wrap.

Common Pests & Plants Diseases

Generally, Limelight hydrangea is a trouble-free shrub but it can get bud blight, rust, leaf spot, powdery mildew, and bacterial wilt. These fungal diseases are more likely in humid weather and when there is lack of air circulation.

The shrub might get aphids and mites but they don't affect the overall plant health.

How to Get Limelight Hydrangea to Bloom

The two main reasons why your Limelight hydrangea is not blooming are lack of sunlight and removal of the flower buds. Shrubs that do not receive sufficient sun will bloom poorly; sometimes it helps to cut back other trees or shrubs nearby to improve the light situation. As for pruning, if it's done too late in the season and the flower buds have already formed, the chance of accidentally removing them is higher, so make sure to prune your hydrangea before the new growth starts.

FAQ
  • Can you root Limelight hydrangeas in water?

    You cannot, for two reasons. Woody cuttings rarely root successfully like cuttings of houseplants, and Limelight hydrangea is a registered trademark so any propagation is prohibited.

  • What happens if you don't prune Limelight hydrangeas?

    If you leave the shrub untouched season after season, it will become leggy and sparse. The old, dead wood needs to be removed to make room for new growth.

  • Is limelight hydrangea a shrub or a tree?

    it can be either one, depending on the way you prune it. Growing it as a tree requires selecting a strong central stem and regularly removing any side shoots.

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Toxic Plants. University of California

  2. Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants: Hydrangea. ASPCA.

  3. Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight'. North Carolina Cooperative Extension.