Sunday, 6 January 2013

A look at Leucothoe

Leucothoe - pronounced Lew-kowth-ay 

Or at least that's the pronounciation I know!!

Leucothoe keiskei 'Royal Ruby'
flowering May 2012
Leucothoe are part of the Ericaceae, the group this plant belongs are an acid lovers - just like Rhododendrons, Azaleas and Pieris.  They can be deciduous or evergreen.  Their growth habit is best described as broad and arching.  It's leaves are long, leathery and shiny.  Unlike it's relative the Pieris which stand out in the garden as it puts on new foliage -  the Leucothoe don't unlock their beauty until Autumn and Winter.  They take on dark red, crimson, purple and bronze shades, which remain until spring.
Producing small white flowers on the underisde of new shoots in May, a shade lover and can also be used as groundcover.  I have read that providing the soil is moist enough it is tolerant full sun.  I did not find this the case, it suffered badly before it went to the giant compost bin in the sky! Now I would not exactly describe the sun here in Scotalnd exceptionally strong!  If you have found different I would like to hear about it as it could also be that my soil was perhaps too moist!

You will generally find a good selection of these plants for sale in nurseries or GCs in Autumn and Springtime - when the shelves are bursting with 'winter interest' plants.  More often than not - overlooked it seems - I found that my local GC (national chain) had an excess of these plants on special offer last summer.  That could be the best time to bag a bargain if you fancy giving these a try.  Leucothoes have a few common names: Dog Hobble, Fetterbush, Switch Ivy and Drooping Laurel.

Here's a look at the Leucothoe that grow quite happily in my garden......


Leucothoe keiskei 'Royal Ruby'

Leucothoe keiskei 'Royal Ruby'
Colour at the beginning of Autumn
Leucothoe keiskei 'Royal Ruby' is a low or ground covering Leucothoe.  It is said to be hardy down to -29 (zone 5).  Evergreen with  broader leaves than some of the other Leucothoe available and a medium/fast grower.  Both specimens in my garden grow in part shade (receiving about 4 or 5) hours sun in the afternoon.  This shrub will reach a height of around 60cm.  As autumn progresses to winter 'Royal Ruby' will turn from pink/red to a deep purple colour. 
March 2012
In springtime as temperatures rise - the foliage reverts to green as is visible in the picture to the right.  Masses of tiny white (pieris like) flowers are produced in May.  They are said to be fragrant but I can't say that I remember it!  I will need to pay closer attention this year and report back with my findings!       







Leucothoe axillaris 'Red Lips'

Leucothoe axillaris 'Red Lips'
with
Rhododendron Goldfimmer and
Euonymus fortunei Harlequin
Leucothoe axillaris 'Red Lips' is a more compact bushier specimen and not to be confussed with it's cousin 'Curly Lips'! (Curly did grow in the garden but I stood on it and snapped it!)  The Evergreen foliage on Red Lips is red for most of the year - both new growth and autumn winter colour is an almost scarlet colour.
As temperatures were very low this year it has kept it's red colouring all year!  Seen here in the border grouped together with Rhododendron and Euonymous this little shrub is ideal for the front of a shrub border.  Growing to a maximum height of 30cm with a spread of not much more.  It is also extremely hardy.  Disappointingly this shrub has failed to flower in my garden, it's going into it's 3rd year in my garden, so maybe it was just settling in!!  This dense form will also keep weeds at bay, which is a bonus!  If your soil is alkaline - then this one would make an ideal candidate to keep in a container on the patio - but you will need to make sure it gets the conditions is needs.


Leucothoe fontanesiana 'Whitewater'

Leucothoe fontanesian 'Whitewater' is the newest addition to my collection.  I just could not resist this standing proudly on a shelf in the nursery.  Seen here before it has found a home in the garden.  Just where on earth I'm going to put it, goodness only knows!!  I'm sure you all know that feeling!!  Described as Hillier nurseries and 'Handsome' and apparently will grow quite happily in a pot.  I might find it easier to find a home in a container rather than in a border at this moment in time.  Another consideration would be to try train this against a trellis - it kind of has that sprawling growth that may lend itself to being grown against a structure.
I will not make a quick decission on where to put it - but will update here as soon as I do!
Reaching a height of around 90cm and a spread of 120cm it will be the largest of my Leucothoe.  Just like it's companions above it's described as hardy to -29 or Zone 5.
As close up of the leaves shows of it's creamy margins.  I think I'm going to like this one!!

Propogation of Leucothoe is in the form of semi-hard wood cuttings.  Something I have yet to make an attempt to do and just what would I do with them!  Very few of my family and friends are keen gardeners.
Leucothoes are said not to enjoy a mulch but more of a 'top dress' which is what I do in springtime and give them a liquid feed of Seaweed with sequestered iron mid summer.

As my shrub border is due to be widened this year - I'm on the lookout and open to suggestions for some perennial planting companions.

The fact that these shrubs like an acid soil, can cope with shade and prefer moist soil makes them an ideal plant for my garden.   These low maintenance shrubs come highly recommended by me if you can give them their ideal growing conditions.

I hope you found this interesting and inspiring!  Do let me know :)






      

27 comments:

  1. Yes, this was both inspiring and interesting, a new plant for me! I should have the perfect environment for plants like these, I already grow rhododendrons, azaleas, camellia, pieris, skimmias and similar plants. Most of my garden is in shade or semi shade so I would definitely put one of these on my (very long) plant wish list. Thanks for the info :-)

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    1. Helene - if those other plants thrive, then I'm sure Leucothoe is worthy of being added to your list. If I ever get round to propogating - I'll let you know :)

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  2. Thanks for reminding me about this plant...Leucothoe fontanesiana is a native for me and may work in some areas of my garden...great post!

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    1. Glad I jogged you memory Donna. They are well worth giving consideration too :)

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  3. Excellent post as ever Angie and very interesting .

    Looking forward to watching the changes in different seasons.

    Now I wonder do I have room or not for another plant that is the ?

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    1. Kath - I'm sure you could squeeze a wee one in :) 'Red Lips' is only small and idea in front of taller shrubs.
      It might sit nice nearby your Enkianthus!

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  4. Interesting post about Leucothoes. Found your blog via Blotanical. I also read the long review of 2012, I enjoyed it. Looking forward to read more about your garden,I shall be your new follower.

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  5. Janneke - thank you so much for stopping by you visit is very much appreciated. I'm pleased you enjoyed it and look forward to seeing you here again :)

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  6. Angie, I thoroughly enjoyed your in depth post on Leucothoe. In a garden like ours where Rhododendrons absolutely thrive I am surprised we haven't had a go with these plants. I am sure I have seen a small trailing form used in hanging baskets.

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  7. Alistair, thanks for enjoying. I don't think these shrubs are as widely know as their cousins :)
    Have never seen any offered for hanging baskets - must keep a look out, as if it trails over a hanging basket it would look equally good spilling out over a pot!

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  8. Angie do you think I really could squeeze one in .

    Where did you buy yours from ?

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  9. What a lovely blog packed with fascinating facts. I am adding you to my list of favourite blogs today!
    I am really lucky in having a sandy slightly acid soil and I can grow all these acid lovers such as leucothe.

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    1. Roger, thank you very much for stopping by and adding me to your favs - I've never tested my soil but as I had inherited a large number of Rhoddies and they all live quite happily - I have always presumed it was on the acidic side. One of these days might get round to test it :)

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  10. write down the blog and have noticed a wonderful love of nature

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    1. Thank you Agata - nature is a wonderful thing isn't it!

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  11. Thankyou Angie and if any others would like to join forum you are very welcome.

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  12. I thank you for your visit, and always feel free to myself I have a translator and translate the Polish.

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  13. We grow lots of Rhododendrons here, so I'm excited to add a companion plant to my list. Thanks.

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  14. Ricki - thanks very much for your visit. I saw from your archives that you you have a lovely selection of Pieris too - always nice to find something different, isn't it!

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  15. Angie~and nice of you to stop by Sprig to Twig. In answer to your question, in case you do not return there: Google Reader lets you make a list of the blogs you want to follow, and then when you log in there it shows you which of them has posted something new.

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  16. What pretty plants - and so varied in their colors! I do think that 'handsome' describes Whitewater well. I think that is my favorite of those you've shown.

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  17. That's a new plant to me, thank you, very informative post. I really like that 'Whitewater' one.

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  19. Hi Angie, was looking for info on leucothoe and found your blog. I am fairly new to gardening and wonder why my plant did not flower, think I cut it back in April last year. Could that be the reason? It needs pruning now, but will wait to see what you think. I think it is about 3 years old and I just stuck it in as I liked the foliage in my shade area. Patti

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    1. Hi Patti
      Leucothoe flower on old wood therefore pruning immediately after flower which should be in a few weeks here in Scotland.
      Personally I've never had to prune as none of mine got particularly tall or out of hand.
      Alternatively you could prune one third of stems each year, done over 3 years, that way you should be guaranteed flowers each year.
      I hope this helps you

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