Limelight hydrangea: A winner for every season

If you love hydrangeas and lament when they quit blooming for the year, then you need to put the award-winning limelight hydrangea on the list of your must-have plants. This hydrangea gives an extended season of incredible blooms from midsummer through fall.

The hydrangeas you might be most familiar with are bigleafed hydrangeas known botanically as Hydrangea macrophylla. We sometimes call them mophead, lacecap or even French hydrangea, although they are native to Japan. Or you might know the native oakleaf hydrangea, Hydrangea quercifolia.

The limelight is a different species called Hydrangea paniculata. The leaves are smaller, but the quantity of flowers is incredible. The 6- to 12-inch-long flower heads are held upright on the plant. The flowers start off a chartreuse lime then change to bright, light lime that is almost white. As fall approaches, the flowers turn pink.

In 2007, the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers named it the Fresh Cut Flower of the Year.

Dr. Guihong Bi, a research horticulturist at Mississippi State University’s Truck Crops Experiment Station, has been working on cut flower hydrangeas of all types. She says the limelight can be harvested at any stage for the perfect centerpiece, and also is great for drying. Do you have a summer wedding planned? You could not ask for a more exquisite flower producing a bounty of cuts.

Limelight grows upright and reaches 8 feet tall, putting out attractive blooms until frost. It is cold hardy from zones 3 to 9, meaning it has a wide range of adaptability. It is unbeatable in the landscape and works superbly as the thriller plant in mixed containers.

Ideal growing conditions are fertile, well-drained soil with morning sun and afternoon shade. In the landscape, plant it among other shrubs 72 to 80 inches apart in odd-numbered clusters for a terrific, eye-catching display.