While you may have heard of the incredible Limelight Hydrangea and probably know the large, iconic cone-shaped flowers that it creates, you might not know about its dwarf version- the Little Lime Hydrangea.
As the name implies, the Little Lime is a smaller, more compact version of the full-grown Limelight Hydrangea. The Little Lime Hydrangea only grows to about 3 to 5 feet tall and in width, compared to the Limelight which can get up to 8 feet tall.
This flowering shrub creates delicate lime green flowers that bloom all summer long, and turn a dusty pink in the fall. Plus, it’s a super low maintenance plant and one of the easiest types of hydrangea!
Get To Know the Plant
The Little Lime Hydrangea is still technically a Hydrangea Paniculata, just as all other hydrangeas you see, but this type has been bred to be much smaller and require less pruning, another reason why it’s so easy to grow.
It’s also cold-hardy, so it can be planted almost anywhere in the U.S., as it can grow easily in zones 3-8. While it doesn’t flower through the fall and winter, it’s very resilient and regardless of the winter you have, it will consistently bloom in the summer for years.
This shrub has beautiful flowers that start out lime green, become lighter, then start to develop a hint of pink as the weather cools down, and in fall they go out with a strong pink hue. It’s incredible to see these flowers change over time and this development will add different colors to your garden as well!
Why Plant a Little Lime Hydrangea?
This little hydrangea offers so many reasons to be planted and so little trouble!
First, Little Lime hydrangeas are considered the easiest to grow because they require less pruning (which I’ll explain more in a later section), low requirements for sunlight and watering, and aren’t picky with soil.
Other than watering once a week and pruning once a year, there isn’t really anything else you need to do to get these gorgeous, full blooms. In contrast to full sized hydrangeas, who require lots of pruning to keep from falling over or growing unevenly.
Since they’re so low maintenance, they’re a favorite for landscaping. Many people also like to create a small hedge out of these shrubs. You can plant several, evenly spaced out, and will have a little hedge that flowers all summer long! Because of its looks and low maintenance, many people love Little Lime Hydrangeas for landscaping.
However, they’re also great for gardens! It’s always wonderful to have flowers and color added to your garden, but there’s an added plus with these shrubs- bees and butterflies love the flowers, naturally attracting pollinators.
Let’s get into the complete care guide so you can see how to start growing and caring for a Little Lime Hydrangea!
The Little Lime Hydrangea can be found at most plant nurseries, as it’s a fairly common plant and can be grown all over the U.S., so you shouldn’t have any difficulty finding one to start with.
It’s best to plant a hydrangea in early spring, so the roots have some time to sink in and prepare for the blooming season in the summer. You can also plant a hydrangea in late fall, depending on the climate you live in. You don’t want to plant a hydrangea during or even before a harsh winter, but if you plant it while the weather is still mild, it will have a chance to set in roots.
You want to dig a hole twice as wide as the pot it came in, so there’s space to add in mulch. However, the hole should only be as deep as the plant already is, you don’t want your plant to sit below the level of the rest of the soil.
If you dig a hole deeper than the length of the root bundle, the plant will sit below the soil level and will sink in with watering. This can cause the roots to drown or rot if the water pools in. So, keep the hole only as deep as the roots are long.
If you’re planting multiple hydrangeas, place them about 5 feet apart, any closer will crowd them. You can place them further apart, that just depends on the landscaping design you have in mind.
Lastly, once the plant is in, you’ll want to cushion it with mulch. For this, you can either use compost or leaf scraps. Filling in compost around the root bundle and a bit on top will help keep the soil moist and promote airflow. But, it’s very important to keep mulch 6 inches away from the base of the shrub. If it’s too close to the base, the stems will be suffocated and can get too damp.
You can transplant Little Lime Hydrangeas, but you need to be very careful. Definitely only transplant during the winter, while the plant is dormant. During this time you can transplant without upsetting the plant.
If you try to transplant while the roots are active, which is early spring through mid-fall, you freak out the plant and it’ll go into shock. This is really hard to recover from, so it’s best to only transplant during peak winter, or initially plant the hydrangea where it can stay for years to come.
If you’d really like or if your circumstances require, you can pot a hydrangea, but it’s not ideal for this plant. Even with the smaller Little Lime, hydrangeas, like most plants, prefer having space for their roots to spread out.
However, since the Little Lime is smaller, it is possible whereas the full grown Limelight could never sustain living in a pot. The most important thing is that you pay attention to the moisture levels of the soil.
As I’ll explain later in more detail, Little Lime Hydrangeas require moist soil and lots of sunlight. When they’re potted, what often happens is that they receive lots of sun through the window, but this dries up the soil.
So, if you’re going to pot a hydrangea, make sure you’re vigilant with the moisture of the soil. Fr this, a clay pot would be great as they retain moisture very well.
The most important thing to keep in mind with the Little Lime Hydrangea, and for all hydrangeas in fact, is that they need consistently moist soil. Their roots will really struggle if the soil is too dry and this will mean the shrub doesn’t grow as well and might not even bloom.
You should pay extra attention to the soil moisture if you live in a dry climate or are experiencing a drought period. Also for regions, like in the southwest, with particularly rough soil filled with sand and rock fragments.
Lastly, adding a mulchy material will do wonders for promoting healthy roots. An ideal loose mulch would be a combination of organic compost, worm castings, and plant scraps. This would provide a nutritious amount of nitrogen, lock in moisture, and also keep a good amount of air flow in the soil.
However, as I already mentioned, if the mulch is directly on the stems, they’ll get soggy and the plant will wilter, so it’s really important that you keep the mulch at least 6 inches away from the base of the shrub. If you see that one of your Little Lime Hydrangeas is smaller than the others or that it’s struggling, check if there’s mulch around the base.
Little Lime Hydrangeas are super easy when it comes to sunlight requirements- they’re very happy with both full or partial sun. The only requirement is for some sunlight, if the hydrangea is completely in the shadows, it will struggle.
If you place it in a section that receives sunlight all day long, you won’t have any problems. Hydrangeas aren’t vulnerable to sunburns or overheating, nor will they wither if they’re in an evening shadow.
As I explained with the soil section, it’s very important that the soil constantly has moisture. In general, watering the Little Lime Hydrangea once a week will be enough. The frequency mostly depends on the climate you live in.
If you live somewhere humid or with consistent rain, you shouldn’t have to worry about the soil too much. Especially if you added compost around the base of the shrub! But if you live somewhere with dry air or don’t have much rain, you’ll definitely need to water the Little Lime yourself.
For watering Little Lime Hydrangeas, you want to water towards the ground, around the base, as opposed to throwing water on top of the plant. Also, remember that you only need to water the plant during the growing season- late spring to early fall. As fall begins, the plant is already preparing for winter, so you don’t need to continue to water the roots.
Another method for keeping the soil moist is to use a drip irrigation system. This slowly but regularly releases water into the ground, keeping the soil watered.
If you notice several yellow leaves on the shrub, this is a sign of dehydration and that you need to water slightly more often. You don’t want to overcorrect and overwater, so just increase your watering schedule a bit and pay more attention to the soil. (If you have one or two yellow leaves, this isn’t a big problem.)
Close-up image of the flowers, where you can see some have turned white and some are still a pale green.
Little Lime Flowers
The flowers on the Little Lime Hydrangea are probably the most attractive part of this plant. In peak summer they’re in full bloom, and you can’t miss the huge cones of flowers. Throughout the summer as they start to wilt they change color in the most gorgeous display of decay.
When the flowers first begin to bloom, they start with a vibrant lime green color. Then, as they’re exposed to the sun a bit longer, the bright green fades and they turn a paler green. Depending on where you live, if the sun is more intense then the petals may turn completely white, whereas in other regions they remain a light green.
As the summer goes on, the tips of the petals turn pink. During the end of summer and the beginning of fall the pink spreads and the petals become entirely pink, darkening as the fall continues.
That’s another great thing about the Little Lime Hydrangea- it’s a long bloomer. This means it will continue to bloom throughout the summer and into the fall, as opposed to some flowers that only bloom for one week! This, certainly, depends on where you live and how intense the winter is, but often the flowers will stay in bloom until the first frost.
Image of dried Little Lime Hydrangea flower.
The Little Lime Hydrangea is a bit of a late bloomer, as it usually doesn’t have full flowers until late June to July. To make up for the late Little Lime flowers, you can plant smaller flowers in front to add color and brightness to your garden!
Great news is, once the flowers have reached the end of the blooming season, you can easily dry them for interior decor! The flowers dry very easily and keep the pink hue, with a brown tint. Even before the end of the blooming season, you can clip the flowers at any point and bring them inside to place in water or let them dry.
At their peak, the flowers grow to about 5 inches long, in a large cone shape. Another advantage of the Little Lime Hydrangea is that because the shrub is smaller, the flower cones don’t droop like with the larger version.
With the full Limelight Hydrangea, the flowers actually get so large that they weigh the branches down and often need to be clipped. Because the Little Lime isn’t as big, this extra pruning step isn’t as necessary.
The leaves of the Little Lime Hydrangea are a bright green throughout the whole summer. Towards the end of the blooming season, around mid-fall, they turn a darker green, but there isn’t any fall foliage with these leaves.
Little Lime Hydrangea Care
So, now that you know the basics of getting a Little Lime Hydrangea started, let me explain a couple tips and techniques you can use for keeping the plant as healthy as possible. I have some tips about pruning and general maintenance, but luckily the Little Lime Hydrangea is super low maintenance!
As with any plant, you want to clear out any damaged or dead plant material. If you see branches that are wilting or were broken, go ahead and cut them with gardening shears and remove.
This will help the plant reallocate energy and nutrients to the rest of the plant that is still healthy and growing! Plus, the Little Lime shrub will just look better when it’s all cleaned up.
Since the Little Lime Hydrangea flowers are smaller, and therefore lighter, they don’t flop over like the full Limelight Hydrangea flowers tend to. But, that’s not to say that they won’t ever. If you see a flower flopped over, it’s possible to prop it up either with a guiding rope or a wooden frame for support.
As the temperatures drop the flowers will go from dark pink to a brown-ish mauve color and start to dry out. This generally happens around October, but again this depends on how cold your area is, but definitely after the first frost of winter the flowers will be dead.
At this point you can cut them off and either add to your compost or use for interior decorations. However, you can also leave the flowers on if you like the look of the delicate beige dried flowers. Especially in climates where it snows, these look gorgeous with a winter landscape.
Fertilizer isn’t necessary, given that Little Lime Hydrangeas are fairly easy-going and will take root on their own. But, if you want to give your plant a little boost, it’s best to use an organic slow-release fertilizer at the beginning of spring to initiate the growing season.
Lastly, you should be aware that your Little Lime Hydrangea might become a snack for your local deer. Hydrangeas aren’t “deer candy” as some flowers and shrubs are, but they are edible for deer and if they can’t find their favorites, there is a chance they’ll turn to your Little Lime.
Pruning Little Lime Hydrangeas
Pruning for the Little Lime is mostly a precautionary step- it’s a good way to prevent diseases or misshapen growth. These are certainly things you can deal with as they come, it will just be easiest to prune once a year to prevent them in the first place.
Although, some people don’t prune their Little Lime Hydrangeas at all and just let them grow on their own with no problems. You definitely can do this- the plant doesn’t require pruning and won’t struggle if you don’t prune.
If you do decide to, you just need to prune the Little Lime once a year, optimally in early Spring. This is because the flowers only bloom off of new growth, so all the old and dead branches from the previous year will just be in the way.
New growth with fresh flower buds.
Cutting out all the dead branches right before the growing season helps promote growth, which is why it’s best to do this right before the plant becomes active again. Plus, it’s easiest to prune while the shrub isn’t active, because without any leaves all you see are the branches and therefore can better shape the structure.
To start pruning, first take out any branches that have snapped or are damaged. Any of these branches that you snip, you want to cut all the way to the base.
Next, cut off any branches that are crossing over each other, this will really complicate the structure. You want to have a structure that starts at the base and extends outwards, so any branches you find curling in and turning down towards the ground should also be clipped.
Close-up image with all white petals in the middle of summer.
At this point, you should have a clearer visual of the framework of the Little Lime Hydrangea. The only step left is to trim off the smaller old branches.
There will still be the tiny branches that just started forming last season at the ends of the foundational branches. For these little branches, you just want to clip them starting at where they shoot off from the main branches, leaving the larger ones intact.
After this step, you should have just a handful of large and structural branches left, which will provide the foundation for the new growth in the next season!
Also, note that if you bought a very young Little Lime Hydrangea, you don’t need to prune it for the first 2 to 3 years of its life. During this time, it’s just developing its structure and needs to be allowed to grow. But this is for the first 2-3 years of its life, not the first 2-3 years that it’s with you.
You can see here how beautiful the shrub is alongside all our other blooming flowers.
Now that you know everything about planting and growing Little Lime Hydrangeas, let me suggest some companion plants that go great with Little Limes to fill out your garden or give you an idea for where to plant yours.
- Chanticleer Pear
- Shrub Rose
- Coral Bells
I hope you found this guide useful for learning everything you need to know about planting, growing and caring for a Little Lime Hydrangea! These beautiful little shrubs are incredibly easy to care for and what little care they do need is justified by the stunning and consistent flowers you’ll get every summer!
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.