Sunday, April 15, 2012

Pieris japonica

Lily of the Valley Shrubs (Pieris japonica) are about half way through their spring bloom and color show right now. These graceful, slow growing shrubs are popular in the Seattle area, and for good reasons.

First, there are the flowers. Large clusters of bell-shaped flowers appear in early March.
Perhaps most commonly seen in Seattle are plants with white flowers.

Flower color choices also include shades of pink, such as 'Valley Rose' and 'Valley Valentine.' Some like 'Christmas Cheer' and 'Daisen' have white flowers edged with rose red.

But the show's not over when the flowers fade. New foliage emerges in colors ranging from bronzy pink to fiery red. Those colors last for 2-3 weeks and then the leaves turn green as they mature.
Varieties grown for their stunning new foliage color include 'Mountain Fire' and 'Flaming Silver.'

There are many varieties of Pieris japonica. Some are dwarf plants, such as 'Pygmaea,' which gets to about 18" tall and wide. Some have variegated leaves, such as 'Variegata,' which has a white margin along the edges. All are slow growing and attractive year around.

Lily of the valley shrubs are easy to care for in the Western Washington area. These plants like part-shade, and moist, acidic soil. Older plants can be limbed up to look like small trees. Pieris is often grouped with rhododendrons and azaleas, which have similar soil and sun requirements.