Forcing Hydrangea Paniculata 'Limelight'

flowercutter(7A)November 10, 2013

I grow many hydrangea paniculata 'limelight' to
cut flowers. I am in Virginia. Most of the blooms come in the summer so I have extended the season by pruning some of the plants in June to extend the season into October. Now I am going to force the plants to bloom in May and June by taking some of the plants that are in containers from the cold in February to a heated greenhouse.
Has anyone done this? Does anyone know how many cold hours
a Hydrangea paniculata needs to start growing and flowering again? I am thinking it will take 90 days to bloom once they are put into the greenhouse. Thanks!

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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

Apparently it is not too common because I have had trouble finding such information online (information on forcing paniculatas). All the examples out there were cases of forcing H. macrophyllas. They cooled the macs to 55F for 6 weeks or more before raising the temp for 80 or more days. But Macs are different from paniculatas so you may need to experiment. Below are some links that I had on file on forcing hydrangeas.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2013 at 12:48PM
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Thanks for the time you spent trying to help me figure this out.
I appreciate the effort and will check out the links.

I have about 100 -
3 gallon Limelights. My goal is to get as many blooms as possible per plant and to have these blooms of good quality.
I have done a moderate pruning and will leave them outdoors
in a sheltered place until Feb. 1.

I will report back how the experiment went.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2013 at 6:05PM
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Ok- This is working well. Brought the 3 gal. pots in the last week
of January. They were frozen solid from our hard winter here in
As of today, the plants have about 2 inches growth per stem,
which is better than expected. I plan to put them back outside
sometime at the beginning of April after the danger of frost has past. I expect them to be blooming sometime in May.
(The only issue I have had so far was heavy bleeding when the sap rose)

    Bookmark   February 21, 2014 at 7:30PM
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I'm curious about your experiment. It is an interesting plan and I have an observation/comment for your consideration:

I would use caution when moving your hydrangea from the warm green house to outside cooler/fluctuating temps.

If the temps vary too greatly, it might cause the buds/blooms to fall off, or stunt and not open.

Please keep us updated on your progress.


    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 3:40PM
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Hi Deb,
Do you have personal experience
about flowers falling off or is it something you have read?
I hadn't even considered it, so I appreciate the warning.
Here is a pick of the plants a few days ago. Will keep you
updated. My goal is to get 20-30 flowers per pot.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 5:23PM
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Flowercutter...I'm certainly not a hydrangea expert by any
means, however, I do grow many Limelights in ground.
Yours look good!
Does any one leave them outside in POTS during winter
in zone 7 (Va) ?


    Bookmark   February 26, 2014 at 8:56AM
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Hi Margaret,

I also have many (60 ) Limelights in the the ground, as well as
6 other paniculata cultivars. Many are 6'-8' tall and wide.

I left the 3 gallon pots outside until the end of January in Charlottesville, va zone 7 to give the plants enough cold hours to force early blooming.
As you know we have had a very cold winter. There seems to be no negative effects on the plants for leaving them outside. One thing is that the pots have to stay moist if left out. The paniculatas seem to be very tough.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2014 at 9:24AM
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I have personal experience with flower buds falling off of Christmas cactus and leaves falling from house plants when bringing them inside to overwinter.

The outside temps were cool and the house much warmer. Kind of shocked them and the buds and leaves fell off.

I've had better luck with the outside and inside temps being closer in range. The leaves held on houseplants and buds on the cactus stayed on to bloom.

For example, even after chilly overnight, the daytime temps and sun slowly warm the plant's environment by around midday. That's when I bring them inside, to inside air temp closer to outside at that time, before evening air drops and the plant cools off.

Just an observation, your mileage may vary ;-)
It will be wonderful to see early blooms on your hydrangea.


    Bookmark   February 26, 2014 at 11:26AM
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Flowercutter....that's good news because I'm thinking of leaving a few in pots to scatter around the deck, etc.
I won't have room to winter over any other plants in the
garage besides my brugmansias.
I have approx. 40 of the paniculatas in ground. Can't get
enough of these beauties. As you said...they're hardy and
easy maintenance. During the summer, I take quite a few
to the market.
Thanks for that info.


    Bookmark   February 26, 2014 at 10:16PM
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Wow Margaret! Beautiful!
Those are some huge blooms! What variety?
I usually prune my paniculatas so that I get smaller but more blooms for florists. I bought a bunch of 'Phantom' paniculatas
but still have them in container. They are sister seedlings of
'Limelight' and are supposed to be even more vigorous but
have not planted any in the ground yet. I also grow 'Vanilla
Strawberry' and 'Little Lime' to cut for florists.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 8:20AM
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That is one of my medium sized Limelights. Several are
much larger because I only trim them lightly. I love large
plants in my spaces...everyone is bold :):
I'm now on the prowl for Harmony. I see that Hydrangeas
.com has them.
Three Van S. are growing nicely that I ordered last year.
Hopefully, I'll be able to find some in my local nurseries
this season.
If the wind calms down...I plan to prune the rest of the
Limelights today. Do you prune your up a bit off the ground? I think I need to do that in order to get a better
form. I've done that with my Tardivas. Some of the others,
I let them go with the flow.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 9:50AM
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more hydrangeas...Annabelles

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 9:57AM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

Gorgeous flowers, pearlgirl! What a spectacular garden you must have.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 10:38AM
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Thanks! I guess i can pat myself on the back a LITTLE bit
just becausde I've been blessed to have some space and
a little knowledge to grow things. I so love gardening and
my gardens.
For the past eleven years I've had garden tours/flower
shows. It's been so much fun.
I've recently learned how to post pics here and I'm taking
advantage of it :):)
Oakleaf is another favorite.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 11:44AM
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    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 11:49AM
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OK, so what's the secret? Your plants look like they are on steroids. Something in the soil? Amazing! I'm going to e-mail you and see if I can see your garden. Just from these pictures it looks incredible.
I do prune up my paniculatas because they are scatted throughout the yard and most are not in beds, so it is easier to mow around them when they are pruned up. I'm surprised you get such huge flowers with light pruning. I medium prune mine and get smaller flowers but up to 500 on one bush.
I sell Hydrangeas at good prices in 3 gal if anyone
needs Limelight, little lime, phantom or vanilla strawberry. Just contact me this spring. $20 per. - depends on availability.
I don't ship though.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 5:06PM
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That's funny!! As I said...if they're lucky, and I have time...
they only get a couple of handfuls of the 10-10-10. The
ladies at the market were overwhelmmed even as I was.
The blooms were to die for..had to be all of that wonderful
And.....I'd love for you to see my're only two
hours away. I always do my garden show in May. (this
year I'm planning for the 17th)
I'd love to have more of the S. Vanilla.
I'm hoping to plant at least 6-8 on the upper part of the
property and train them into more of a tree form.
Nice temps for the next few days....I'll be able to cut back
the rest of the Annabelles. They always send out babies.
Do send the email and I'll tell you more about plans for the
garden flower show.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 6:34PM
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boquets that I enhanced for the market

    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 6:57PM
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eastern shade with some blues

    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 7:04PM
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First pic is of a smaller 'Limelight' in mid-Summer and second pic
is of one turning pink in late summer. Florists really like the
antique look of the limelights when they turn color. These lightlights are 3 years old.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2014 at 9:22AM
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second image

    Bookmark   March 1, 2014 at 9:24AM
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Awesome! Your blooms are huge also. Most of all...I
really like the scale and the way that you've shaped them.
I can just imagine your garden with Limelights planted


    Bookmark   March 1, 2014 at 10:21AM
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Forcing update:
Many plants have now put on about 6" growth. I am doing these plants inside so I am using artificial light. An issue has
come up where I need more light. The plants directly under the
lights are doing much better than the ones to the side. I ordered several more HID lights to up the lumens and for better coverage.

Snowing here again and going down to 5 degrees tonight!
Enough already.

Checked inventory and have available in 3 gal. for $20 per;
'Little Lime', 'Phantom', 'Limelight' and 'Vanilla Strawberry'

    Bookmark   March 3, 2014 at 3:25PM
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You have something wonderful set up with those hydrangeas. They look great and you probably WILL get
those blooms in May! I'm excited myself to see that it will
work for you.
I read your original post regarding pruning in June in
order to perhaps extend the bloom period to Oct.Really
good info....I plan to try that this year.
My Van. S are just two years old, however, they've grown
nicely. (3 ' tall) I know that I should prune them. Since you
are familiar with them..would you suggest a regular hard
It's snowing with sleet here also. The robbins have made
their won't be long.
Thanks for the update.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2014 at 4:23PM
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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

-5F, snow and sleet. God bless. My Meyers Lemon and the other "tropical" shrubbery here have gone in-out several times and I finally got tired of moving them and left them inside. Just picture having 1/2 the space in the kitchen covered by these guys though! LOL! I was gambling that, because recent years had been so mild, that this year might repeat (at least a little) but "eh!".... ol'e man winter emailed that, "eh, not gonna do it again." Hee hee hee.

As a result, we got some sleet twice on Sunday and Monday rush hr was a mess because the sleet did not melt much and the winds howled and pushed the wind chill to -5. How weird. We had been in the 80s on Sat and hit a low of 14 Sunday Night. Sigh. Killed the new growth on the roses. You guys be careful with sleet where the sun shines only a little:

My dogs took off when I let them out today and they all had a hard time getting traction to do a right turn under a tree. They slammed into each other and some chairs. Hilarious! But they did not care one bit. It was a race between them and that appeared to be all that mattered. They just ignored my screams of "noooooo" as I kept thinking of vet bills for broken bones! Lordy Lord. Ha!!!!

I hope it warms up soon so you can get the hydrangeas outside and enjoy those blooms. Ohh, and I like all pictures of VS blooms!

    Bookmark   March 4, 2014 at 2:17AM
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Funny stories for good winter reading. Thanks!

Got down to 2 degrees last night with 5 inches of snow. I fed the
migrating Robins some raisins yesterday hoping it would help them make it through the snow. A large group of Robins have stayed around here for now and there is one Leucistic Robin among them. Picture shown. He is pretty rare. Named him
'Rob White'.
I medium prune all my Paniculatas. A hard pruning means bigger blooms but less flowers and it may also delay blooming.
I will find a link and publish it that studied pruning in Paniculata Hydrangeas.

If you want to, you can experiment with pruning at the beginning of June to delay blooms till September. Try it on a few shrubs for timing and amount of trimming.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2014 at 9:39AM
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First of all...i want that Robin! I'm sure that I've seen one
of those....just didn't realize what it was LOL! It's beautiful....

Luis, at least you can GROW lemons! Don't mind having to
pull those babies in. We struggle so with our plants. It's
worth it all as far as I am concerned. plan was to prune only half way of the
Van S. I know that pruning is a good thing and why not
ask an expert. More of those are on my list for sure. I'm
really using my imagination of having at least four on my
deck this year in pots. My trumpets will have to rest some
place else.
Tried to propagate some Annabelles and Incredibals last
fall....will know if they took in a couple of weeks. Have a
few more to cut back. I sort of stagger the pruning on those
because the blooms get so large. Those are definitely two
more of my favorites. I'm simply obsessed with hydrangeas!
Gotta go crawl out of the snow.


    Bookmark   March 4, 2014 at 10:07AM
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This picture was taken last week. They Hydrangeas have buds
and will bloom soon. I put them outside a few weeks ago but had
to bring them back in a few times due to very cold weather. It got
down to 34 degrees one night when they were outside. No damage but it has slowed down their progress. I believe 100 days is a good amount of time to expect for forcing. Some varieties did better than others and spacing was an issue so lower branches did not do very well and actually burned when
exposed to the sun. Have a great flower season. My latest
foray into flower cutting are the Itoh Peonies, which I hope will
supplement the hydrangeas as they bloom earlier.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 10:06AM
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Murray, everything looks so nice and healthy. You know what you're doing :):) I'm happy that it's working out for
you. I so love to do experiments.
I'm trying to decide what date to do the flower walk/show.
Things are a bit have to wait and determine when the roses will pop
My Limelights look great! I sent you an email.


    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 12:40PM
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I love the pics!!! I fell in love with hydrangeas 2 years ago accidentally. I killed all of them because I was a rookie BUT dove right in again with a little limelight since I read they are less fussy about soil than other hydrangeas. Mine survived the winter and is doing great. I want to try some mac's again in containers which I think I'll do white since I'm starting my moon garden soon. @flowecutter I know you said you sell but do not ship where are you located?

Since you and Margaret have so much experience what do you guys mean by pruning in June the blooms extend til October? I have little lime does this mean they usually don't bloom until fall?

    Bookmark   May 11, 2014 at 5:43PM
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springwood_gardens(6B Pittsburgh)

If you prune many paniculatas in June, you cut off the already-formed flowerbuds on the current year's growth. Therefore, the plant must reset bud production, which makes for blooming into the fall. (Buds don't form overnight - can take a month or longer.)

    Bookmark   May 12, 2014 at 3:04AM
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I live in Virginia. hydrangea Paniculatas bloom on new growth which makes them better for cold climates because their buds are not lost if there is a very cold winter. BUT in my area, they don't start blooming until the end of June into august which is the slowest wedding season. So if you trim some of your plants in my area at different times (stagger) around the start of June, they bloom into late august, September and October. In Warmer climates (Dallas?) they bloom earlier and may get 2 bloom periods before fall frost (Northern Florida. By the way, you can also do this with Crepe Myrtles after they bloom and get a second bloom).
Little Limes have the same blooming period as Limelight. There are several varieties of paniculatas that are early bloomers but do not make a tight flower head like limelight,
My forced flowers are blooming now and will start cutting this Thursday. Biggest issue has been weak stems. Good luck with your plants.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2014 at 7:50AM
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Help - landscaping/garden co. planted 3 limelights in my garden in January. They grew well and began blossoming in May - but all the blossoms are pink. I called and their only suggestion was to put aluminum sulfate on them. I'm not trying to turn them blue - but lime colored. My soil in very acidic here due to tons of pine trees around. Hope someone can help me.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2014 at 9:34AM
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Are you sure you got Limelight? Sounds like a macrophylla if it has pink blooms and is blooming in May. Limelight is a paniculata type hydrangea and should bloom in July/August. Soil pH should not affect the bloom color of paniculatas. I see you are in zone 9 so it probably blooms earlier for you.

Here is Limelight early August in middle TN last year.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2014 at 10:06AM
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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

Limelight's blooms start green. They are immature blooms and will eventually fade to white, etc. The greens last longer when planted in more shade but it usually blooms starting in June or July, depending on the geographical location. The only way to get it to bloom that early would be for the wholesaler to trigger the plant to bloom early in May.

If it is Limelight, your blooms should be panicle shaped and should have started green and stayed green for 2 weeks ++. If the blooms are shaped otherwise then there is a chance it was mislabeled. And I would have a fit. :o)

    Bookmark   June 1, 2014 at 3:11PM
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This is a bucket of my first hydrangeas (mostly limelight) sold to a florist that were forced to bloom early.
They were cut on May 12th. They would have have bloomed earlier but I put the 3 gallon pots outside in the middle of April and it stayed cold for several weeks after that. There were several issues I had with production. The plants needed more room then I had (too close together) and weak stems on the crowded plants. Once outside the stems strengthened but many bent over or broke. The blooms turned out to be very nice and were of a good size for arrangements. All flowers were sold over the next several weeks at a premium.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2014 at 8:14PM
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Hats off to you, Murray! I'm so excited that it worked for
you. Some of mine are just beginning to set bud.


    Bookmark   June 19, 2014 at 5:34PM
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