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Pieris

Botanical/Latin
   Pieris

Pronunciation
   Pi-er-is

Common Name
   Japanese Andromeda

Hardiness zone range
   5

General Comments
Impressive and very valuable evergreen shrubs that form dense, compact bushes of glossy evergreen leaves that are overlaid with drooping sprays of small, white, bell-shaped flowers in spring that resemble lily of the valley. Several forms burst into growth in spring (and periodically during the growing season) with colorful new leaves that emerge bright red and go through various colors of orange and bronze before maturing to deep, dark green.


Light Preference
Partial shade with a tolerance to sunny conditions.


Culture & Care
They thrive best in humus rich, well-drained, lime free soils (pH 5.0-5.5) that have the capacity to retain plenty of moisture in dry weather. When choosing planting positions, try to avoid hot, dry positions, open exposed sites, or low-lying places that are prone to become frost pockets. To get them off to a good start, plant them in a generous sized hole with plenty of organic matter (peat, planting compost, leaf mold, composted pine bark, etc.), mulch, and water well until they are established. Once established, they benefit from an annual, light, spring mulch and an occasional dressing of fertilizer. This can either be applied as a liquid feed or applied in granular form (sprinkled onto the upper soil layer). Use a formulation specially developed for ericaceous plants. The best time to do this is in early spring, making sure not to over feed, and watering afterwards, if the conditions are dry. Otherwise, little maintenance is needed, except to occasionally reshape the bushes; this should be carried out immediately after flowering in order to leave plenty of time for re-growth and the formation of new flower buds, which usually takes place during July and early August.


Uses
They are superb plants for providing a dense mass of attractive, evergreen foliage and spring color in gardens of all sizes, from small, restricted sites in cities or towns to large, woodland glades in country estates. The rounded mounds add form and definition to layouts, and the shiny, evergreen foliage will extend the interest throughout the seasons, providing long lasting, low maintenance, ground cover and excellent backgrounds for other deciduous and perennial species. They are widely used in modern style layouts as foundation planting, in shrub borders, and as specimens where all year round color is important. They are also very effective in beds that are viewed from indoors through large windows and patio doors, particularly in early spring and winter when the dark colored foliage and shapely outline is covered with snow. Finally, deer find the foliage unpalatable, making them useful in areas where deer browsing is a problem. Since the foliage and flowers last well when cut, they are wonderful additions to flower arrangements, wreaths, and swags.


Background
The name comes from Pierides, a name for the Muses (goddesses of the arts). There are four horticulturally important species; two of these are reliably hardy and have the most importance in our gardens here in eastern North America. Pieris japonica was introduced to cultivation under the old name, Andromeda japonica, and then reclassified into this new genus leaving us with the old name to be used as the common name, Andromeda. Pieris japonica is our most commonly grown garden species with several important selections that have colorful young growths and drooping panicles of fragrant, white, urn-shaped flowers. In our experience, the best of the commonly grown ones are Pieris japonica 'Dorothy Wycoff' and 'Mountain Fire'; they are exceptionally good plants with compact growth, beautiful foliage, and gorgeous flowers (pinkish on Dorothy and white on Mountain Fire). As the name suggests, the new growth on P.'Mountain Fire' is bright, flaming red, and is a spectacular sight in spring and on new shoots during the growing season. Recently quite a lot of interest has been generated by a new Japanese selection that came to us from the Raulston Arboretum in North Carolina. It is Pieris 'Shojo' and is highly valued for its nice, compact habit and very dark pink flowers. From the steep mountains in the central part of Yakushima Island (fondly called the "alps in the ocean"), comes a natural variant (Pieris japonica yakushimensis). It has a dwarf, compact habit and the ability to flower profusely even at an early age. The windswept, rain drenched, steep mountainsides have produced this natural variant that breeders in Holland have used as a genetic line to select a series of semi-dwarf cultivars, which they named after musical compositions. Pieris 'Prelude' and 'Cavatine' are two that we really like; they are nice and vigorous, but really compact, and are covered with masses of flowers which are perfectly in scale with the size of the plants. In addition, Pieris 'Prelude' has pink young growth and does not retain the long, straggly remnants of old seed heads that can be a little unsightly on their larger growing cousins. Both have received Awards of Garden Merit by the Royal Horticultural Society. The other important species is a native species that is found growing in mountain areas from Virginia to Georgia. Pieris floribunda was actually the first Pieris to be introduced to gardeners in Europe (early1800's), but since it was not as showy, difficult to propagate, and a little tricky to grow, it never really caught on like its Asian relatives. The big attribute is that it is resistant to lace bug damage; this is a bug that sucks on the undersides of the leaves and disfigures them leaving unsightly patches of yellow and light brown. As a parent of hybrids with P. japonica, it passes on this desirable quality. The best of these in our view is Pieris 'Brouwer's Beauty'. It is a medium sized grower with a nice, dense, compact habit and very pretty white flower panicles that are displayed like a hand with outstretched fingers. Another that has our eye and proved very garden worthy is a beautiful white selection called Pieris 'Spring Snow'. Del Brown of Marysville, WA, selected it, and it is a super plant for the smaller site, only growing to about 3 feet. It has pure white flowers that sit upright and are prominently displayed against the shiny, dark green foliage.


Splendor Suggestions
If you have noticed Pieris in your neighborhood with a light brown cast to the mature foliage, they may be suffering from lace bug attack, so think about commencing a preventative spraying program or try a few plants of Pieris 'Brouwer's Beauty' or 'Spring Snow'. They are very beautiful plants and stand up well to this annoying little pest.


Companion Plants
They are perfect partners for Rhododendrons, Azaleas, Kalmias, and, together with Leucothoe fontanesiana 'Nana', make an incredible impact on the spring scene. The glossy foliage gives a rich evergreen presence to other spring flowering companions like Enkianthus, Deutzias, Fothergillas, and Viburnums, and makes a beautiful background for showing off the bright, cheery flowers of Forsythias, Kerrias, and Cytisus. In situations where more light is available, the smaller, semi-dwarf selections combine well with the real Andromeda (Bog Rosemary), Ericas (Heaths), and Callunas (Heather) to make eye catching displays. They are marvelous with the slow growing, cut-leaved forms of Japanese maples especially Acer 'Garnet', Green Mist', and 'Tamukeyama'. In light woodland or beds shaded by buildings, they are wonderful companions for larger growing Japanese Maples like Acer 'Bloodgood' and dogwoods; add in some Buxus (Boxwood), Lacecap Hydrangeas, and perennials with cool blues, whites, and pale pink, and a nice, colorful, year round scheme is achieved. Veronicas, Aquilegias, Dicentras (Bleeding Hearts), and the fabulous little Corydalis will make a glorious show, while the luxuriant leaves of Hostas, the colorful plumes of Astilbes, and the early, but long lasting, Helleborus 'Royal Heritage' (tm) will add more impact and seasonal color. For ground cover and low growing texture, think about using some spreading drifts of Galium odoratum (Sweet Woodruff), colorful Ajugas, silvery drifts of Lamiums, and a low maintenance, easy to care layout is assured.


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