Planting and Growing Pieris japonica

Pieris 'Mountain Fire' Photo Courtesy of InAweofGod'sCreation via Flickr

Pieris ‘Mountain Fire’ Photo Courtesy of InAweofGod’sCreation via Flickr

Pieris are a beautiful glossy leafed evergreen shrub. They have dense and naturally mounding. The flowers are drooping clusters of white or pink, usually appearing in March and April. The new growth on some cultivars, which appears in late spring to early summer, is bright red and even showier than the flowers. Most wonderful of all, deer do not like it. Though over time some pieris can grow quite large – up to 8 feet- they are very slow growing and will take many years to overtake a space. Dwarf cultivars are also available. One should resist the urge to prune pieris, as new flower buds start forming in July, and holes left by over zealous cutting are slow to fill in.

Pieris Photo Courtesy of Alex O'Neal via Flickr

Pieris Photo Courtesy of Alex O’Neal via Flickr

Cultivation of Pieris japonica

Pieris are not really tricky to grow, but they are very exacting in their requirements and unforgiving if they are not met. They love rich, moist, acidic well drained soil. If you do not have these conditions naturally (and very few of us do), this is best achieved with good bedding soil mixed with plenty of pine bark fines and compost. Pieris should be protected from strong drying winds and hot afternoon sun. Ideal sites would be a northern side of the house, a courtyard or against a hedge.

Pieris like moist soil but they cannot stand wet feet and should never be planted where there is standing water. In their first year pieris should be watered every three to four days, more often if the soil shows a tendency to dry out rapidly. After the first year be sure to water the plants during periods of drought. Fertilize with a slow release fertilizer for acid loving plants; Hollytone is very good.

Pieris 'Little Heath' Photo Courtesy of Megan Hansen via Flickr

Pieris ‘Little Heath’ Photo Courtesy of Megan Hansen via Flickr

There are many cultivars available. Here are a number of outstanding selections:

Pieris Photo Courtesy of TANAKA Juuyoh via Flickr

Pieris Photo Courtesy of TANAKA Juuyoh via Flickr

Valley Rose: Pink flowers and bronze new growth; 3 to 5 feet tall and wide

Valley Valentine: Deep red buds open to dark pink flowers; new growth is bronze; 5 to 7 feet tall and wide

Mountain Fire: White flowers with bright red new growth; 4 to 6 feet tall and wide

Southern Lady: White flowers with bright red new growth; 6 to 8 feet tall and wide