"In the limelight"

I love the colour lime-green!
Sunday, 13 September 2020     

New foliage on Japanese maple in my driveway

Lime-green is my next favourite colour after blue. In early spring, the whole landscape seems cloaked with a fuzz of the new growth of luminescent, lime-coloured leaves on trees and shrubs, both evergreen and deciduous. Oak trees, magnolias, Murraya, Buxus, Liquidambar, Euonymus japonicus 'Aureus', Japanese maples, Camellia, Brunfelsia, Spiraea japonica 'Anthony Waterer', Viburnum tinus and dwarf Nandina domestica are just some examples of these. The freshness of this foliage seems to embody the very essence of spring.

In some cases, the lime colour of the foliage occurs because I grow gold-leaf shrubs in part-shade in my garden: for example, Duranta 'Sheena's Gold', Hydrangea quercifolia 'Little Honey', Salvia elegans 'Golden Delicious' and golden heliotrope (Heliotropium arborescens 'Aurea', and, unlike the trees and shrubs mentioned earlier, these plants retain their lime-green foliage through most of the year. I much prefer this hue to the brasher golden colour of the foliage if they are grown in full sun.

Some perennial plants also have thrilling lime-green new foliage in early spring in my garden for the same reason. They all have the softer lime-green hue to their foliage if grown in part-shade. Examples include the golden form of various fancy-leaf Pelargonium cultivars such as 'Anne Tilling'; golden oregano; succulent Sedum mexicanum 'Gold Mound', which forms a crinkled carpet with its tiny leaves; ferny-leaved golden feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium 'Aureum'; and grassy-leaved Acorus gramineus 'Ogon'. Other perennials with lime-green leaves are shade plants in any case: Acanthus mollis 'Hollard's Gold' (new leaves are lime-hued, despite the name!), Xanthosoma 'Lime Zinger' and various forms of Syngonium podophyllum. Most of these also retain the lovely hue for most of the year, and all these plants light up a gloomy spot with their glowing leaves!

The colour blue with lime-green can be one of the most pleasing combinations in the garden, and in spring these trees, shrubs and perennials can be under-planted with bluebells, perennial Ajuga or annuals such as forget-me-nots, cineraria or Lobelia (as shown in the photo with Sedum mexicanum 'Gold Mound', earlier in the blog) to create a zesty picture. All shades of purple flowers, such as the spring bulb Babiana, also provide winning combinations with lime leaves, as shown in the photo at left. I also love the edgier pairing of bright orange (as in the Clivia shown beneath the maple at the start of the blog) or even red or hot-pink flowers with lime-green! White blooms can look very crisp against a backdrop of lime-green, and yellow flowers also look effective with the hue.

Gorgeous lime-coloured flowers can also be found in early spring, especially amongst the Euphorbia tribe. Shrubby Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii with its startling clusters of acidic lime-green bracts is amongst the best of these plants, thriving in full sun and well-drained soil. With a background of limey spring leaves to echo its bracts, or partnered by the huge architectural blue-purple spikes of shrubby Pride of Madeira (Echium candicans), or a deep purple bearded Iris, it is a stunning sight. The annual coral spurge (Euphorbia corallioides) also gives this wonderful chartreuse colour: it is a rather naughty weed that tends to self-seed enthusiastically, but it is easy to remove the surplus seedlings. Another annual with lime-coloured flowers is the tobacco plant Nicotiana langsdorffii, which has a multitude of small bells, and self-seeds gently from year to year. Another type (Nicotiana alata 'Lime Green') has a larger flower, and is very appealing. These Nicotiana bloom through much of the year. In late spring, they are joined by other lime-coloured flowers, such as various cultivars of daylilies, such as 'Lime-painted Lady' and 'Green Dragon' and the lime-yellow form of the shrimp plant (Justicia brandegeeana 'Lutea').

This blog originally posted on 22 September 2008; updated 13 September 2020.

 Reader Comments

1/5  Bren - 2540 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 14 September 2020

Helichrysum petiolare Limelight is another lime green plant (the original form is silver-grey). This plant is tough and will grow in full sun or part shade. I call it a 'smother-all' because it will smother everything in its path, which can be handy in a big garden. It is not invasive however. (Erigeron, though not lime green, is another handy 'smother-all'.) Thanks for reminding me about that great Helichrysum! I am currently without it but can't wait to grow it again. I do like Erigeron too! Deirdre

2/5  Valerie - 2121 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 14 September 2020

Oh yes for lime green in the garden. At the moment I am making a lime green weave in curves through a section of the garden using the fancy-leaf pelargonium with tortoiseshell-like markings. Well, it is a tough grower and can handle sun, plus it is already here. I love that pelargonium. It is lime-green in shade and golden in the sun. Deirdre

3/5  Sue t. - 2566 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 14 September 2020

at present I'm enjoying the delicate lime green new leaves on my Robinia 'Freisia'. I love the colour of those leaves at this time of year! Deirdre

4/5  Neil - 3149 (Zone:10 - Mediteranean) Tuesday, 15 September 2020

Those wonderful lime plants. Ours include Daffodil Blimy, Berberis Thunbergia 'Golden Glow', Philadelphus Aurea, Cotinus Coggygria Ancot 'Golden Spirit', Physocarpus Opulifolius Lutens 'Golden Ninebark', Salvia Mexicana 'Lime Bracts', not to forget Euphorbia Wulfenii which we have to be careful not to allow the seeds enter the native parkland behind our garden. Our yellow flowered Tecoma with pale foliage covers part of this garden. We fell in love with lime plants years ago. Yes, in your cooler climate you can grow those gorgeous shrubs! The salvia and euphorbia also grow well here, though as you mention, the euphorbia does self-seed so care must be taken. Deirdre

5/5  Margaret - 2122 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Early spring does herald the lime colour foliage, making a delightful picture. At the moment the foliage of my white weigela and spirea is that pretty lime colour - reminds me of a lime milkshake - which I love, and with the white buds of both plants, just about to burst. My begonia 'golden girl' is clothed in lime foliage, at the moment. A delight for me is the discovery of my English bluebells, obscured by the begonia, about to flower. Sounds so pretty, Margaret. And congratulations on your English bluebells! Deirdre

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