Home & Leisure

On Gardening: Limelight Prime garners Hydrangea of the Year

Norman Winter, Tribune News Service on

Published in Gardening News

It wasn’t until the summer of 2019 that I realized I lived in a Hydrangea paniculata forest. If you have read my columns, then you know The Garden Guy can exaggerate a little. So, to be more succinct: My neighbors all down both sides of the street have the most glorious monster hydrangeas. I, on the other hand, have the more refined Limelight Prime, the 2023 Hydrangea of the Year, as so designated by Proven Winners.

When I planted it in 2020 to join the neighborhood Hydrangea Society, I had no idea it would be the hydrangea of the year three years later. In fact, I was part of the testing process, as it wasn’t released until 2021. To me the differences with Limelight, the all-time granddaddy of hydrangeas, are huge. Well, maybe the big truth here is that they are NOT huge.

You see, my neighbor’s wonderful hydrangeas push 8 feet tall, maybe more, and some of their clusters actually block the view of traffic. Others are so large they even screen the front of the house. So a smaller version like Limelight Prime, which gets only 4 to 6 feet tall, is just what the doctor ordered. They are easier to work into small yards, or even smaller beds like I am doing. They also boast sturdier stems able to hold those huge blooms upright. It has a better foliage cover and starts blooming earlier.

I have had great fun developing this bed and making changes over the last three years. Whether you grow the original Limelight or Limelight Prime, I hope you are giving them companions in the landscape. I have always believed that if you saw these giant white blooms in the islands, say Martinique or St. Thomas, you would think they were the most beautiful tropical flowers you had ever seen. This points out the tropical style garden can be a bit of an attitude or illusion.

Since I am a tropical nut, I have combined my three Limelight Prime hydrangeas with exotic foliage like the Red Abyssinian banana, Ensete maurelii, and two giant Alocasia Portora elephant ears that reached 10 feet tall last season. I can truthfully say the Limelight Prime blooms looked like the most gorgeous tropical flowers on my street.

If you have read my columns in the past, you know that butterflies, hummingbirds and other pollinators stoke a flaming passion in The Garden Guy as well. So the quest for the third growing season was to transform this bed into a full partnership of hydrangeas, tropical foliage and the best of pollinator plants.

I added dwarf Pugster and the taller Miss Molly butterfly bushes. Then toward the front of the border, I planted Truffula Pink gomphrena, Sunstar Red pentas, Rockin Playin the Blue salvias, Meant to Bee agastaches and Color Coded coneflowers. The best surprise of all is that not only are there butterflies and hummingbirds on the butterfly bushes and perennials, but I have also photographed the spicebush swallowtail, great purple hairstreak and the exquisite question mark butterfly on the Limelight Prime hydrangea.


This one bed that started as an end-of-driveway eyesore has now become my favorite hangout place. The impetus for all this fun came about from the opportunity to test three Limelight Prime hydrangeas, then creating their combinations.

Since this is the Proven Winners' hydrangea of the year for 2023, the supply should be up for you to be able to purchase. They are recommended for zones 3-8, which is a huge geographic area. In my three years, I have had blooms from June through November, and two of the years I had better rose coloration than I ever dreamed possible in the South.

I hope you will join in the celebration of Limelight Prime, the Hydrangea of the Year.


(Norman Winter, horticulturist, garden speaker and author of “Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South” and “Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden.” Follow him on Facebook @NormanWinterTheGardenGuy.)

(NOTE TO EDITORS: Norman Winter receives complimentary plants to review from the companies he covers.)

©2023 Tribune Content Agency, LLC


blog comments powered by Disqus



Bill Day Mike Lester David Horsey David Fitzsimmons Bizarro Chip Bok