Maintaining the plants in your landscape isn't always as easy as it seems. For example, do you have limelight hydrangea growing in your garden but want to keep it small? Is there a way to do this without harming the growth and flowers on your plant?
Luckily, we've done plenty of searching and have the answer below!
If you want to keep a limelight hydrangea small, it's best to prune it back by 1/3 of its overall height every few years. However, you don't want to do this annually, or you could stunt your plant and cause fewer blooms.
Hydrangeas respond best to occasional trimming throughout the year, maintaining a shape rather than dramatically cutting them at once.
As we start this article, we will cover all things keeping a limelight hydrangea small and go over what pruning schedule one should follow. Whether you're new to hydrangeas, have many varieties in your yard, or need extra tips and tricks, we're here to assist. With that said, let's dive in!
Can You Keep A Limelight Hydrangea Small?
Yes, it is possible to keep a limelight hydrangea small. Generally, you will do this through occasional shaping during the year, starting with one major cut-back.
Many experts recommend cutting a limelight hydrangea 1/3 of its size or 18-24 inches from the soil. That said, you don't want to do this too frequently. It's best to do major pruning every 2-3 years to avoid stunting or killing your hydrangea.
One drawback to heavy pruning with this flower species is that hydrangeas can take many years to recover and fully bloom once heavily pruned.
For example, some gardeners have waited 2 years for their limelight hydrangeas to bloom heavily after a significant trimming. Therefore, it might be better to do this once and maintain whatever size works for your landscape.
Some people may have room to let their hydrangeas grow wild, while others need them to stay under a few feet. There's no wrong way to do this—just try and be gentle with your plant.
Since limelight hydrangeas can become very large, it's better to get ahead of their size than risk harming your plant by severely shaping it.
How Big Do Limelight Hydrangeas Typically Get?
Limelight hydrangeas can grow anywhere from 6 to 8 feet tall in ideal conditions. For this reason, many gardeners find themselves struggling to manage their plants.
This species is considered a small flowering tree, although most grow it closer to a decorative shrub. Regardless, your limelight hydrangea can become a staple plant in your garden, meaning it needs space.
Keeping one of these plants small can be challenging, especially if you wait too long. As mentioned, pruning your limelight hydrangea to about 18-24 inches can send it into shock.
Especially for larger, mature trees, you don't want to do this all at once. Instead, we recommend beginning your shaping towards the top of your hydrangea, eventually moving to the base.
It's also worth mentioning that limelight hydrangeas have around 3 feet of clearance between their lower branches and the ground.
This growing pattern gives the hydrangea more of a "tree" look. According to Calloway's Nursery, these trees can become seven feet wide, another reason many gardeners have trouble controlling them.
What Time Of Year Should I Prune Limelight Hydrangea?
The best time to prune limelight hydrangeas is in late winter or early spring. Generally, your plant won't be as susceptible to shock or disease after pruning during that period.
Moreover, limelight hydrangeas will go dormant in colder conditions, so you can wait until right before their spring growing season to give them a trim.
It's important to note that limelight hydrangeas will produce flowers on their new growth. Therefore, removing excess branches and foliage before you notice new buds won't harm the upcoming blooming cycle.
If you were to cut back green new shoots from your limelight hydrangea, that's when flowering may take a hit. Regardless of the age or size of your plant, it's always good to remove branches from limelight hydrangea once they're winterized.
Your tree will be easiest to cut back during that January-February timeline, as it's not growing yet.
In addition, some gardeners find success pruning their limelight hydrangeas in the later fall, just before winter, so that might be another idea. However, we don't recommend this unless your plant has stopped growing and is gearing down for the colder season.
How Often Should You Trim Limelight Hydrangea?
It's a good idea to prune your limelight hydrangea each year before the spring. As mentioned, this plant does grow to be 6-8 feet tall with a similar spread, meaning you should try and tame it annually.
That said, your limelight hydrangea does not need to be significantly reduced yearly. If you want to cut yours down to 1/3 of its total size, do this every 2 or 3 years.
If you cut back a limelight hydrangea too often, it can negatively impact its flowering. For example, it will take time to recover if you pruned your hydrangea tree down to 2-3 feet from a 5-6-foot plant.
You might notice less flowering this year and more over the next 2 years. That's because when you shape limelight hydrangea substantially, this can trigger the plant to go into repair mode.
During the first growing season post-prune, your tree will try and regain its shape, focusing more on branches than budding. That's why we recommend only making a massive reduction in the size of the limelight hydrangea once and then maintaining the shape from there.
Is Limelight Hydrangea A Shrub Or A Tree?
A limelight hydrangea is considered a flowering tree. Generally, this plant species is smaller by tree standards, reaching 6-8 feet once fully mature.
However, this is a big difference compared to a typical hydrangea shrub. One of the reasons this tree can be tricky to downsize is that it grows in vertical clusters, often depending on its size for blooming.
Even though these trees tolerate most garden conditions, they prefer to grow wild. Like any tree, a limelight hydrangea won't respond well to frequent pruning or major downsizing all at once.
Some people can train their limelight hydrangea to look shrub-like by trimming it from a young age and topping it off.
If you want to do something similar for your plant, we recommend starting young to prevent damage and fewer blooms. Regardless of size, limelight hydrangeas have a more rounded appearance, so they won't be awkward to shape with garden shears.
Focus on sizing your limelight hydrangea over time, following its natural growing pattern. Even though this is a smaller flowering tree, you still want to be careful with overdoing it.
Can I Grow Limelight Hydrangea Like A Shrub?
Yes, this is possible if you can shape your limelight hydrangea from a young age to mimic a shrub. Since these trees are virtually the same as a large, ornamental bush, keeping your hydrangea from towering over your garden shouldn't be hard.
The key is topping off your limelight hydrangea. For example, if you notice your hydrangea grows past 4 feet tall and you want to stop it, begin pruning it to stay around four feet.
The same applies to the width or spread of your tree. All you need to do is grab a pair of shears and size down your limelight hydrangea. Whenever your plant becomes leggy, doing this throughout the year is best practice.
On top of that, your limelight hydrangea will fill out towards its base if you keep it shorter. Instead of having clearance between its lower branches and the soil, yours may develop branches that reach the ground.
Of course, this isn't always great for your hydrangea, as pests will smell the flowers and swarm the plant, but aesthetically, having rounded hydrangea "shrubs" is always a win.
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How Fast Do Limelight Hydrangeas Grow?
You can typically expect limelight hydrangeas to grow 1-2 feet yearly. These small flowering trees will usually see 24 inches of growth in their younger years, slowing down as they reach 6 to 8 feet.
As we mentioned, these flowering plants have similar-sized spread to their height, so expect your limelight hydrangea to fill out quite a bit.
Unlike other hydrangea varieties, your limelight tree will see pretty consistent growth until years 4-5, when it reaches mature size.
Assuming your tree gets plenty of sun, nutrients, and water, it can surpass 6 feet after 3 years in the ground. Of course, with shaping, you can keep your limelight hydrangea much smaller.
Limelight hydrangeas thrive in various landscapes, making them a nice addition to most gardens. Your plant won't be too particular, so if your soil isn't amazing, your tree should be able to push through.
Take a look at this post: How Fast Does Limelight Hydrangea Grow?
Whether you have a limelight hydrangea towering over your garden or a recently planted one, creating a pruning routine is essential. We found that you can keep limelight hydrangeas smaller by giving them a once-annual shaping and cutting them back by 1/3 of their size every few years.
However, you don't want to do massive limb removal yearly, or you could impact the blooms in the spring/summer. Your hydrangea will respond better to systematic shaping rather than one intense trimming.
This species is also one of the faster-growing hydrangea options, so make sure and regularly go out and remove leggy branches if you see them.
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