Panicle hydrangeas including ‘Limelight’ are in full bloom in my part of the U.S. right now.
The same is true for reblooming big leaf hydrangeas like Let’s Dance® Rhythmic Blue®. They continue to produce their repeat blooms like the one in this photo.
Fortunately, we have had generous unprecedented mid-season rain that has helped to keep all the flowers coming and colorful.
WHAT’S HAPPENING IN THE REST OF THE GARDEN
The majority of early season shrubs and perennials have finished flowering so hydrangeas have taken center stage. Sure, there are later season stunners like perennial hibiscus with their dinner-plate size blooms that are traffic stoppers.
And there is no mistaking the delicious fragrant flowers from summersweet (clethra) that perfume the garden like this Vanilla Spice seen here.
But I can’t deny that my heart still belongs to hydrangeas.
HYDRANGEA ‘LIMELIGHT’ AND DROOPING FLOWERS
Yet not all is well in hydrangea-land, especially if your stems aren’t strong enough to hold up the giant flowers of your hydrangea ‘Limelight’ and others like it. Which brings me to the subject of this post. It is the second most frequent question I get, only surpassed by “Why doesn’t my hydrangea bloom?” That question is, “How can I stop my hydrangea ‘Limelight’ from drooping?”
Take a look at this photo of hydrangea ‘Limelight’ in a garden setting.
Even after days of pounding rain which added weight to the huge flowers, the stems are still strong enough to hold the flowers up. No, no magic wand required. BUT, what to do without fail is give this plant a MEDIUM pruning each season in early spring.
THE ANSWER IS MEDIUM PRUNING
What is a MEDIUM pruning? According go the Royal Horticultural Society which did a fabulous study of panicle hydrangeas from 2004 through 2007, a medium pruning is cutting the stems down to four buds. Here is what my ‘Limelight’ looked like this past April after it got its annual haircut.
Notice just the strong stems remain. Anything thinner than a pencil got cut and then some. Always remember how big the flowers grow and ask yourself if a stem will grow big enough to hold up a typical flower, especially after a summer rainstorm. If the answer is no, then it goes.
As you can see, this pruning regimen works well on this plant and several others as you will learn when you read the British study. By the way, the Chicago Botanic Garden (CBG) also did a panicle hydrangea study and had some different conclusions. Not surprising, as the CBG trial was in growing zone 5B, a markedly different cultural environment than England. You might want to read that one too.
If you don’t prune your ‘Limelight’ for whatever reason, some stems most likely will not grow strong enough to hold the huge flowers up and they will arch, even without rainy conditions.
WHEN TO PRUNE ‘LIMELIGHT’ HYDRANGEA
You can do this pruning any time the plant is dormant in late autumn, winter or early spring. Dormancy is critical. You don’t want to stimulate it in any way. Once the leaves have naturally fallen from the plant, be courageous and cut it way down. You won’t be sorry next year when your stems stand tall and hold up those magnificent flowers.
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