syn. Andromeda japonica
Pronounced: pee-AIR-iss juh-PON-ih-kuh
China, Taiwan and Japan.
Sunset zones: 2b-9, 14-17.
USDA zones: 6-8.
Heat zones: 8-6.
Height: 12 feet (4 m).
Width: 10 feet (3 m).
Pendulous panicles of fragrant, small, white, urn-shaped flowers adorn its red stems.
Evergreen, 3-inch-long, glossy, green leaves.
Full sun to light shade.
Acidic, humus rich, moist but well-drained soil.
Side dress with compost in spring.
Sow the very fine seed in spring or autumn and place in a coldframe.
Take cuttings in summer.
You can prune these shrubs to reduce size, but it is not advised. You will end up with a shrub growing many water sprouts and an ugly shape. It is better to let them grow to their full size, pruning to thin out branches or shape into a small tree. You can shear to shape, but the natural form is more pleasing, in my opinion.
Pests and diseases:
Although my shrubs are trouble free, canker and phytophthora root rot are reported to be problems.
Rainy Side Notes
As with most shrubs in the Ericaceae family, Pieris japonica grows best in low ph soil, making this carefree shrub a perfect choice for our native soils that are typically acidic. The shrub is a late winter bloomer here in the maritime Pacific Northwest. Its new foliage in spring is red, much like photinia; however, unlike the fast moving photinias, pieris growth is slow. I'm grateful we planted these shrubs when we first arrived at our new property, since my ten-year-old plants reach only about six feet tall. Even though they grow slowly, they are handsome year round, with their evergreen leaves held in whorls. The six-inch long panicles filled with sweet-smelling, small white flowers on red stems cover the shrub in late winter. When I park in my driveway and see them, the flowers are a welcome sight, signaling the end of the dark, cold days of the season.
In full sun, the shrub flowers prolifically, but grows slower. The shrub grows faster in shade, but has fewer flowers. I grow mine as large shrubs, but they are just as handsome limbed up to look like small trees, providing more real estate underneath for planting ferns, perennials or ground covers. Pieris tolerates salt spray, and thus is a good candidate for planting along the coast. These shrubs are poisonous.
by Debbie Teashon
Photographed in author's garden.