Growing Hydrangea Shrubs

by Holly Boettcher


If there is one plant in my garden that brings joy year-round, it’s the hydrangea. I leave the blooms on in the fall to add winter interest to my gardens. Watching them sway in the breeze against the winter snow brings a glimpse of hope that summer will finally arrive in the months to come.

Although their appearance can be intimidating, they really are not a high maintenance shrub and can be easy to grow. There are over 75 species of hydrangea, and many require different pruning methods. There are five main types that grow in North America: Bigleaf, Panicle, Smooth, Oakleaf, and Climbing. 

Limelight Hydrangea

I am most familiar with the Limelight hydrangea, which is a Panicle type. They are fairly deer resistant, although there is nothing that is totally off deer menus. This is one of the most popular hydrangea shrubs. The strong stems do a respectable job of holding up the heavy, nearly football sized blooms which are a pretty chartreuse color in mid-summer, then change to a rusty pink in the fall. I love to use them as cut flowers in a container and use them in fall arrangements as a dried flower. It also works well to spray paint them to use in Christmas arrangements! 

The giant globes of flowers are eye-catching in any landscape. Even though they are a deciduous plant (they lose their leaves in the winter) the shrubs work great as a specimen plant, for a privacy hedge, or in masses for a dramatic show. Some ideas for companion planting are azaleas, hollies, gardenia, and yews. I like to surround mine with coneflowers. Make sure when planting you give them plenty of room since they can grow six to eight feet wide and tall! 

General Care

Limelight hydrangea are hardy from zone 3 to 8. They do best in rich and well-drained soil, although mine are in sand and do just fine. Full sun to part shade is best. The Limelight hydrangea needs to be watered regularly to keep the soil moist, which will promote profuse blooms. They are acid-loving plants, so I fertilize in the late spring and before the new growth appears with water soluble Miracid or a fertilizer with an NPK of 10-10-10. Unlike some other varieties, the Ph does not affect the color of their blooms. 

Carefree Pruning

Because they bloom on new wood, it is best to prune in the early spring before new growth emerges, because you do not want to risk cutting off any of the flower buds that are developing. I add that to my calendar for an April project. To prune, cut off about one-third of the total height of the shrub. And during the summer, trim off any dead or diseased branches that you notice.

Be the Envy!

If you want your yard to be the envy of the neighborhood, consider adding this beautiful shrub to your landscaping this spring. Enjoy!