How to grow Pieris

How to grow Pieris

Pieris are a lovely, easy to grow showy spring Shrub. The very popular Pieris japonica, illustrated above, has varieties such as 'Firecrest' and ' Mountain Fire' has new growth which colours bright red in the spring, fading to pink and finally green with many long white flowers in the spring. The shape and mass of white flowers gives Pieris its common name of Lily of the Valley bush.

It is an ideal shrub in many ways, evergreen so giving cover all year round, and with several months of interest and colour. It starts in around March when the growth takes up colour and is strongly red, and whilst that fades lovely white flowers follow in April and early May. It is easy to grow and requires no real attention.

Pieris grow to various sizes and some varieties can be very large; checking the size of a variety is an important planting point.  P. japonica is a smaller variety which has the RHS award, growth up to 2.5 -4 metres (8-12 ft) with a similar spread. It is fully hardy. 

Pieris japonica 'Debutante' is a more compact form, classified as dwarf growing up to 1 metre in around 10 years. Ideal if you want a small shrub which stays that way.

P. japonica 'Valley Valentine' illustrated below has darker, dusky red/dark mauve flowers. It is a large variety which grows to around 1.5 -2.5 metres in 10 years. Again, fully hardy H5 which is tolerant of low temperatures to -15c. 

There are large varieties such as P. Formosa which grows up to 6 metres which is really a tree not a shrub. But not to be put off there are plenty of smaller varieties, such as  P. japonica 'Compacta' with fragrant, white blooms in spring and is a heavy-flowering dwarf form. Also  P. 'Flaming Silver' AGM with variegated foliage, enhanced each spring with golden-red new growth. This is another smaller variety barely 2 metres in 10 years.

Although fully hardy the young red growth can be damaged by frost and Pieris are best placed in a sheltered position. Pieris are tolerant of semi shade, ideal for a woodland border. Some varieties of P. japonica have slightly scented flowers.

Pieris do not require pruning. If pruning is required to tidy up any spindly branches or spent flowers it is best to prune in late spring after flowering.

One essential requirement when growing any variety of Pieris is for acid soil and if feeding, and ericaceous feed only. 

P. japonica 'valley valentine' and P. 'forest flame