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Location: Front Royal VA

How to prune a new limelight into tree form?

I've just purchased these 2 limelight hydrangeas from the garden center. I'm very new to gardening and part terms on plants. So please forgive me if I should be calling certain areas of the plant, by different names. I tried to pick two limelights that had thick single bases. Now my question is, do I trim them further to get the tree shape going, or keep all new growth off of the base stem area and in a few years it will get taller and form the tree? Im not concerned with flower production this year, so pruning now and removing buds isnt a concern.

The option to purchase limelights already trained as a tree was not in my budget. Being in the northern VA/DC metro area they want $80 plus per small tree. These two were only $16 each, much more budget friendly. Im sure it will take a few years, but I don't mind the wait. I've included a photo of each bush, mainly the base area. Also stuck one that I love and hope to have these eventually look like.

Im sorry the two photos of the limelights are sideways. I can not figure out how to turn them since that is not how they are on the ipad.

Greener Thumb
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Joined: Sun Jul 05, 2009 12:31 pm
Location: Hurst, TX USA Zone 7b/8a

Re: How to prune a new limelight into tree form?

I normally would have walked into the nursery and bought one already in tree form as this process usually starts when the plant is quite young and explains why tree form hydrangeas (or other plants) always cost much more. It probably takes 5 years or more to work on this and sometimes one always finds little tweaks to do here and there. Last year I saw a whole bunch of Limelights in tree form for sale here.

You have to view the stems currently growing and imagine how they will look in time. Observe which one best will grow vertically and remove all others. Sometimes this is difficult to do on year one. So it is also ok to prune off the candidates that do not look right on year one and allow a handful (3-5?) to remain and continue growing; then evaluate them in year two/etc and prune those that do not make the cut as they say. Part of the valuation should also include selecting strong, thick stems. Remove lateral shoots as they are not of concern at first and only allow & shape the top growth. Because all the weight will be higher up, the stems tend to be damaged by the wind so stalk them. Cutting off the blooms while developing the tree form look is a good idea since they weigh on the central leader(s) and can topple the shrub.

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