Limelight Hydrangeas: Can they be grown in Southern California?

CreatedToCook(CA 10a/SunsetZn. 22)September 21, 2013

I recently moved into a new home, and so I've been busily dreaming and scheming about a beautiful garden, where there is currently just dirt and weeds. So being a beginner in the gardening world, I Googled my gardening dilemmas and discovered GardenWeb... what an AWESOME place for people like me who have more questions than answers when it comes to gardening.

So here's my question/dilemma:
Well I recently discovered Limelight Hydrangeas and have fallen MADLY in love... I've read online about how low maintenance and easy they are to grow, and yet what amazing performers and bloomers they are. But I noticed that all of the pictures and articles I've read online show them growing in cooler areas of the United States. Has anyone had success growing Limelight Hydrangeas in my area???

My Weather Conditions:
I live in near the Pacific Coast in Southern California, where there summers are hot and dry, and the winters are mild. In the early mornings, we get a little bit of a marine layer. In the afternoon around 3pm, we get a coastal breeze. I looked up my area in the USDA gardening and Plant Hardiness Zone Map and it shows that I live in Zone 10b.

The Growing Spot:
My FRONT of my House Faces South, so it gets ALL day sun. The BACK of my house faces North. The spot where I'd like to plant the Limelight Hydrangeas is located at the BACK of the house. It is an area that is flanked by two adjoining walls that have windows opening into the house. My desire is to have the Hydrangeas planted along the two blank walls and have them grow tall enough to cover the bottom 1/4 of the windows so that I can admire them from my breakfast nook window and family room window. This area gets ALL day OPEN shade, and is sheltered from the coastal breeze. This area is probably one of the coolest areas on my entire property... the area gets bright light without any direct sunlight. Do you think this will be a good spot for the Limelight?

I've read that the Limelight Hydrangea can perform well in direct sun, I am afraid that the Front of the house where I get ALL day Sun might be too Hot for it. Am I correct to be concerned??? Or will it do well in the front of my house with all that sun and heat?

My other question is do Limelight Hydrangeas do well to be being Transplanted??? As it may have to be transplanted at some point in the future when we turn one of the windows into a French Door.

Being that I am on a tight budget and see myself in this new home for a long time, I need to be very thoughtful about all of my foundation plants. I need to find plants that will do well for me for years to come. So if you have other foundation plant suggestions for me, please, please feel free to share. A few other foundation plants I'm considering to plant around my house are:

Blue Hibiscus: Alyogyne huegelii
Sweet Pea Bush: Polygala dalmasiana
Icee Blue Yellow-Wood: Polocarpus elongatus 'Monmal'
Pink Trumpet Vine: aka. Queen of Sheeba
Climbing Eden Rose
Climbing Iceberg Rose
Iceberg Rose
Perennial Salvia: Blue Spire: Perovskia atriplicifolia

I would love to hear from you if you've had personal experience with any of these plants.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. All of your personal insight into my situation would be GREATLY APPRECIATED.

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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

They have a big range of zones were they can grow but you are beginning to push the envelope. Normally they can grow from zones 3-4 thru 8 or 9. In full sun in cold zones or in morning sun/afternoon shade in warmer zones. Have you seen any paniculatas for sale in your area? It may help you decide. And you can always experiment with just one.

They can be grown in our 100+ degree summer weather but not in full sun. The sun down here is too strong in the summer so they have to have afternoon shade.

Long term wise, the amount of available cool/cold weather in your area may be the catch/problem. It could make them last for a short time only but, like I said, you can always try with just one.

If their root system is kept as evenly moist as possible, they can be transplanted here or there. Just let them recouperate for a growing season and move as much of the root ball & root system as you can.

This post was edited by luis_pr on Sat, Sep 21, 13 at 15:16

    Bookmark   September 21, 2013 at 3:12PM
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CreatedToCook(CA 10a/SunsetZn. 22)

Thank you luis_pr for you helpful response. Taking your advice, I called up Rogers Garden in Corona Del Mar and I found out that they did carry them but do not have any available at the moment and may not get any in for a while.

I think I'm going to go ahead and give them a try in the Back of the house area where there is all day, open, bright shade. I think it will have the best chance of thriving in this area.

Because they're not available in any of the stores around me, I looked online and found them from an online company called Park Seed. They come in a 1 quart size. Has anyone ordered from Park Seed before? I've NEVER ordered plants online before, and so I'm a little hesitant... But the reasonable price and the fact that it's available is making me seriously consider giving buying online a try though.

I would like to try and have them in the ground in the fall while the weather is nice and cool for planting and give them time to establish and grow for next summer.

Does anyone know how long it would take for a 1 quart limelight to reach maturity??? I don't want to over plant, seeing that they can grow up to 6-8 ft tall and 6-8ft wide. But being that it's just a 1 quart size plant, will the area just look have to look a bit sad for a while because it has just a few little 1 quart Limelights surrounded by dirt??? I know someone out there has a great solution to this. Does anyone have suggestions as to what companion plants to plant around the 1quart Limelight while it's small and growing, so that area surrounding the Limelights don't look so bare and sad?

    Bookmark   September 21, 2013 at 4:41PM
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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

There is a Park Seed in SC that has a lot of negative comments. GW removes posts with links to competitors so send me an email and I will send you the info.

In the southern half of the country, it is very difficult to find hydrangeas at this time of the year. Ditto for good inventories in mail order companies. Inventories are restocked by Spring but request delivery when the weather will be fine along the transporation route of a mail order company and your home. Traveling thru Texas now without air conditioner in a truck, for example, is bad for plants. Two local nurseries that I know carry paniculatas and I will often shop there to see what's new. The others carry macrophyllas only or oakleafs/macrophyllas. So look around even in small nurseries, which is where I have found the paniculatas.

Maturity is a commercial term that basically estimates the size (HxW) after 10 years. I would not worry much about achieving certain size because by year 3, I notice most to be growing like gangbusters and getting quite large. Your growing season will also make them exceed those size estimates. On some years here, hydrangeas leaf out in Feb or early March and go dormant in Nov-Dec so with all that time devoted to growing, many shrubs here exceed the high end of those estimates.

There many suggestions for companion plants; do a search in the forum looking for the phrase 'companion plant' or similar phrase-ology. Sometimes I have used more hydrangeas (Limelight and Quick Fire look nice near each other for example); other times I have gone with azaleas, hostas, heuchera, holly bushes, daffodils and camellias.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2013 at 6:59PM
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If you are in Orange County, yes, you can grow Limelight.....and any other form of paniculata. I might consider siting where the plants would receive some afternoon shade but even in rather warm climates, they will tolerate a lot of sun. Water is the key element - provide adequate water and you grow them darn near anywhere :-(

And don't limit your search to just the nurseries in your area (did you try Plant Depot in San Juan Capistrano?) - the box stores like Home Depot and Lowes often have these hydrangeas in abundance.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2013 at 6:11PM
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CreatedToCook(CA 10a/SunsetZn. 22)

Luis_pr and gardengal48... Thank you for your wealth of information. Yes, I am in Orange county. I'm thrilled to hear that Limelights will thrive in my area. I don't know why, but I've never ever seen the Limelights at the big box stores out here... only the pink and blue macrophyllas, and once I even saw the white macrophyllas at Costco... the 'Endless Summer' Hydrangeas seem to be especially popular out here at the big box stores... But I hesitate to plant them in the ground because I have akaline, clay soil, and akaline water, and so I've done enough research to know that it can be very difficult to control the color with those conditions... I'll probably always end up with some form of pink hydrangea growing in my garden with such akaline conditions.

I will call around and check the smaller nurseries around here like you suggested and give Plant Depot and Home Depot a call today. I tried the Lowes around here, but they all said that their growers underestimated the demand for Hydrangeas this year and they are all out and won't be able to get any more in for a while... :-(

Thank you again for all your helpful responses... :-)

    Bookmark   September 23, 2013 at 10:31AM
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CreatedToCook(CA 10a/SunsetZn. 22)

Just a follow up: So I called The Plant Depot yesterday and they were super helpful. Although they didn't have any Limelights in stock, they were able contact their grower, Monrovia, and order me some. (None of the other places I checked out were going to be able to get more until April or May).

They had 1 gallons available for $15.99 and 5 gallons available for $34.99 .... What size do you suggest I purchase? I am leaning towards the 1 gallons for the affordability factor, and the hope that they will establish relatively quickly and happily growing nice and big for me in no time... but having not ever grown them before I'm not sure if that' s a smart choice. What do you think???

    Bookmark   September 24, 2013 at 10:11AM
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It's mainly a matter of gratification - instant if you go for the 5G plants; delayed if you opt for the 1 gallons. They will get there eventually and likely faster than you expect.

Don't you love Plant Depot? My sister lived for years in Dana Point and we visited often......plant geeks always have to check out any nurseries when they visit out of town :-))

    Bookmark   September 24, 2013 at 2:07PM
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CreatedToCook(CA 10a/SunsetZn. 22)

gardengal48... So Friday Was my very first visit to the Plant Depot... Let me just say... I am IN LOVE!!! They had ordered both the "super" 1 gallons and 5 gallons waiting for me. To my surprise the "super" 1 gallon size looked much bigger than I had imagined they would. I walked out of there with 4 "super" 1 gallon Limelights and 2 bags of Acid Soil Ammendment. I really had to use a serious amount of self control and restraint to keep myself from buying more. I think I may have a plant addiction... HELP!!!... ;-)

I can't wait to get these hydrangeas in the ground and growing for me. Based on the information on the tag, it says that they're the hardiest of all the Hydrangeas... needing less water and being able to take more sun, than many of the other Hydrangea varieties out there, once they're established. So I'm hopeful that I will have much more success with these Hydrangeas than the other ones I've planted in the past.

I CAN'T wait to go back to The Plant Depot and do some more garden dreaming... such a cool place. Thanks again for leading me towards The Plant Depot. I would not have known to check them out if it had not been for you... :-)

I'll have to snap some photos sometime and share. Thanks again for all your help!

    Bookmark   September 28, 2013 at 9:27PM
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CTC - I'm so glad to have introduced you to Plant Depot :-) And even more pleased that they were able to help you out so well.

I have no doubt you will enjoy your hydrangeas sister's townhome garden in Dana Point was tiny and also quite shady but she grew gorgeous bigleaf hydrangeas easily so I am sure your Limelights will be equally successful.

I grow hydrangeas myself but my current passion is succulents and SoCal is the place for the best selection of those. I envy your upcoming visits to PD - they have some very cool stuff!

    Bookmark   September 29, 2013 at 4:54PM
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