Lily-of-the Valley Shrub

20 Sep

Lily-Of-The-Valley Shrub (Pieris japonica) evergreen shrub, slow growth to 5 ft. in height with an equal spread, drooping clusters of small bell-shaped white or pastel pink flowers midwinter to midspring, can be variegated, full sun to light shade, likes rich soil, excellent drainage a must.

Hybrids and selections Asian (primarily Japanese) natives; one species from the eastern United States. Elegant in foliage and form the year around, these mid-size to large shrubs make good companions for rhododendron and azalea, to which they are related. They have whorls of leathery, narrowly oval, glossy, medium to dark green leaves and bear clusters of small, urn-shaped, typically white flowers. Most plants form flower buds by autumn; these resemble strings of tiny beads in greenish pink, red, or white and provide a subtle decorative feature in winter. Flowers open from midwinter to midspring.

New spring growth is often brightly colored (pink to red or bronze). Same cultural requirements as rhododendron and azalea. Need acid, well-drained but moisture-retentive soil and summers that are cool to merely warm; they do not thrive in hot, dry conditions. Fairly easy to grow in the Pacific Northwest west of the Cascades, but as you move south and inland, they become increasingly fussy and are often less satisfactory. Also do well in milder parts of the eastern United States.

Where water is high in salts, soil needs careful leaching. Choose a planting location sheltered from wind, where plants will get high shade or dappled sunlight at least during the warmest afternoon hours. Where summers are cool or foggy, plants can take more sun. Prune by removing spent flowers. Thin older specimens by taking out whole branches; or limb them up to reveal attractive peeling bark. Splendid in containers, in woodland and Japanese gardens, in entryways where year-round quality is essential.

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