Japanese Andromeda

    • Tomatoes can be set out with protection. “Season Starter” will protect them down to 20°F and will give them a warm environment during the day.
    • Plant sunflowers now from seed or plants. Choose either the multi-stemmed kinds for cut flowers or the giants for edible seeds.
    • Summer flower bulbs can be planted now. Choose from gladiolus, dahlias, begonias, lilies and more.
    • For blue hydrangeas, apply 1 tablespoon aluminum sulfate or Hydrangea Blue mixed in 1 gallon of water around mature the plants this month.
    • Spring feeding of trees and shrubs can begin now. Mulch with manure or apply fish emulsion or commercial fertilizers.

Japanese Andromeda

Among evergreen shrubs, the Japanese andromeda, Pieris japonica, is outstanding. Its shade tolerance and all-season interest make it a valuable shrub in any garden.

Native to eastern China, Taiwan and Japan, where it grows in mountain thickets, this plant is in the heather family, which includes blueberries and our native manzanitas and madrone trees.

The rich glossy green leaves look attractive year-round and in spring, they form a background for the small, white, bell-shaped flowers that hang in cascading clusters like strings of beads. This gives it another common name, lily-of-the-valley shrub, as the flowers closely resemble that small groundcover. Even before the flowers open, the buds are attractive through the winter hanging in drooping clusters from red stems.

Pieris is a shrub that grows to about 8 feet tall and 6 feet wide, with a loose, graceful habit. It does well with the same soil and exposure as camellias, rhododendrons and azaleas, and makes a good companion plant. It is very hardy and is never damaged by cold weather. It is, however, shallow-rooted, so a layer of mulch is a good idea.

There are several outstanding varieties available. ‘Mountain Fire’ has beautiful, fiery red new growth that matures to a deep green. It is slower growing than some other varieties. The foliage of ‘Forest Flame’ emerges flaming red, then fades to a creamy pink and matures to a glossy dark green in the summer. With the white flowers and colorful foliage on display at the same time, it is a very colorful shrub.

Two varieties have colorful pink flowers: ‘Valley Rose’ and ‘Valley Valentine’. Their new growth, however, is not as showy as the white-flowered varieties.

The dwarf variety ‘Cavatine’ is a good-looking shrub the year round. From March to April it is almost completely covered with bell-shaped, creamy white blooms. It grows slowly to 4 feet tall and wide, and can be grown in a container for several years.

It is not necessary to prune Pieris, other than removing dead or broken limbs, as the natural form is quite picturesque. If the plants need to be shaped or reduced in size, the best time to prune them is immediately after they have finished flowering. It is also a good practice to pick-off the old spent flowers to improve the appearance of the plants and to focus the energy of the plant on new growth and the development of next year’s flowers.

Pieris are perfect for growing in a shrub border or woodland area. Mix them with other spring-blooming shrubs and plant daffodil, tulip and hyacinth bulbs underneath them.

These showy spring-flowering shrubs are a fine accent in the partial shade garden.

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