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From the Ground Up: Quick Fire hydrangea offers changing colors

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By Linda Skvor, Iowa State University Extension

Sometimes you find inspiration for writing a gardening article in the most unsuspecting places. Case in point, the buzz of our office recently has been about the Quick Fire hydrangea (Hydrangea Paniculata). The cuttings from an already established, large Quick Fire brought into our law office last fall started the talk, and I lost track of how many people have added this little gem of a bush to their landscape in less than a year.

So last fall, as part of a much-needed front yard update, my family opted to remove an overgrown yew and replace it with the much-hyped Quick Fire. We have not been disappointed. What started out as a small 2-by-2-foot bush has now nearly doubled its spread in under a year, with the propensity to grow 6 to 8 feet tall and wide. The pretty white flowers that emerged in June are now turning a soft pink, with the promise of a dark rose color this fall. How neat to have a flowering bush for nearly the entire growing season, when few other shrubs are blooming and changing color to boot.

I have positioned my Quick Fire facing east, but this variety of hydrangea seems flexible with sunshine requirements, accepting as much sun as you can offer, but in a site that offers at least five hours of dappled sun. Quick Fires prefer loamy, fertile, well-drained soil, and the flowers on the Quick Fire are not affected by soil PH.

As the blooms occur on this season’s growth (i.e. new wood — the tender new branches that appear in the spring), it’s best to trim in late winter or early spring. Rejuvenation pruning (removing several of the largest stems near ground level) on large, old shrubs can also be done in late winter/early spring. Best to plant hydrangeas in a location where they have room to grow and spread. This allows the plant to bloom for years at a time without the need for pruning. Not much space? How about the Little Quick Fire? This dwarf variety grows 3 to 4 feet tall and wide.

The Limelight Hydrangea is also a showstopper. This Paniculata is winter hardy and drought tolerant, preferring part sun to sun in good loamy soil. The Limelight blooms later than most hydrangea (midsummer), and the conical-shaped flower heads start out as a creamy-chartreuse color, which then turns a chartreuse then deep pink in fall. These blooms tend to hold upright instead of flopping over and make great cut flowers (both dried and fresh). The dark green leaves turn attractive shades of red. Much like the Quick Fire, the Limelight can grow quite large (8 feet tall and wide).

For gardening questions, call the Linn County Extension Master Gardener Hortline at (319) 447-0647.

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