Learn how to grow beautiful Japanese Pieris – an evergreen shrub that thrives in the shade and provides 4-season interest to your garden.
Japanese Pieris, also known as Pieris japonica (pee-AIR-iss jah-PON-ih-kah ), ‘Andromedia’ or ‘Lily-of-the-Valley’ shrub, is a low maintenance evergreen bush that thrives in part shade and provides four season interest in your garden.
In early spring, the bush is covered in racemes of fragrant white, pink or red bell-shaped flowers that are reminiscent of a profusion of lily-of-the-valley blossoms.
The shrubs bloom for several weeks, then the bronzy red new foliage emerges. Eventually it matures to glossy dark green evergreen leaves.
In the fall, white bead-like flower buds appear in star shaped tendrils which contrast with the foliage and remain on the shrub all winter. Then they’re ready to start the bloom cycle once again.
A true all season plant!
Where To Grow Japanese Pieris
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Zone: 5 – 8
Bloom Time: Early spring
Light: Part shade
Height: 3′ to 10′ (depending on the variety)
This member of the heather family is native to the mountainous regions of Japan, Taiwan, and east China. But it is easy to grow in the North American zone 5 to 8 woodland landscape and has the added bonus of being deer resistant.
Pieris grows slowly but can eventually reach a height of more than 10 feet, so make sure to plan for its eventual size. The 6 year old bush in my Zone 5 garden is only 4′ high and 3′ wide.
There are also hybrid varies that are compact in growth and shorter than the original Pieris japonica.
Although they will grow in full shade, there will be more blossoms and brighter spring foliage if the plant is situated in filtered or partial afternoon shade.
A word of caution, although this plant is lovely to look at, it should not be ingested. It is poisonous to people and pets.
How To Plant Pieris japonica
Acidic soil is required. I plant mine with a mixture of triple mix and moist peat moss.
Do not plant the root ball below soil level. Flowering will be reduced if the Pieris is planted too deep.
A 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch helps to conserve water and reduce weeds.
Then water to a depth of 3 inches into the surrounding soil, once a week.
Apart from removing the spent flowers with pruning shears*, the only pruning needed is to remove overgrowth or diseased branches.
I have rarely had to prune my Pieris japonica ‘Mountain Fire’.
Fertilize with rhododendron fertilizer* in mid-February and mid-May, if desired, and water it in well.
One gardener told me to dump coffee grounds around the base of the Pieris to maintain soil acidity. So I do this several times a year and it seems to make my plant happy.
Lace bugs can be a problem. If so, spray the leaves thoroughly with insecticidal soap* weekly, until the bugs are gone.
Fungal diseases can also affect Pieris japonica. But they be easily avoided by making sure not to overcrowd your shrubs with surrounding plants.
These are some of the smaller more compact favorites that are perfect for your perennial border.
Profusion of white flowers followed by bright red new foliage that turns to dark green. Height 6 feet.
Bronze colored new growth follows pale pink racemes. Height 5 feet.
Red flowers. Height 7 feet.
White flowers with variegated foliage. Height 5 feet.
Rose pink flowers with burgundy new foliage. Mounding habit. 3′ x 3′ in 5 years.
Rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias make great companion plants for Japanese Pieris since they all enjoy the same acidic soil and light conditions. You will have a stunning early spring to late spring riot of color.
Under plant these shade-loving shrubs with spring blooming bulbs and winter flowering heather for an even greater impact!
I have planted 3 ‘Katsura’ bushes this year in a new shady garden bed with a Rhododendron, a Japanese maple, and false cypress, surrounded by Hellebores. To fill out the empty spots, I plan to add 3 Mountain Laurels when they are available at the nursery.
I hope I have inspired you to use Japanese Pieris in your garden. I love it in mine.