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25 April 2014

Pieris for Springtime Colour

One of the pleasures of springtime is seeing my two Pieris 'Forest Flame' come into flower.

Pieris belong to the family 'Ericaceae' and are compact evergreen shrubs with leathery, dark green leaves, which are often brightly coloured when young. They have small white urn-shaped flowers borne in panicles in spring.

'Forest Flame' is a bushy evergreen shrub which has young foliage of bright red, becoming pink and cream, finally green. Small cream bell-shaped flowers appear in large branched clusters in spring.

It can reach a height of 2.5-4 m and spread of 1.5-2.5m in 10-20 years.

Pieris prefer a sheltered site in full sun or partial shade, and are happiest in acidic, moderately fertile, humus-rich soil which is well-drained.

It belongs to the group of plants with a pruning classification of 8, and has a hardiness classification of H5. It can be attacked by pieris lacebug, though this is mainly a problem in the south-east of England at present, and may be affected by leaf spot and Phytophthora root diseases.

Propagation can either be by softwood cuttings in early summer or semi-hardwood cuttings in late summer, though some bottom heat may be required.

Two slightly smaller varieties for you to consider are 'Blush' and 'Mountain Fire', both of which have similar site and soil requirements to Pieris 'Forest Flame'. They have an ultimate height after 10-20 years of 1.5-2.5 m and an ultimate spread of 1.5-2.5 m.

'Blush' is a bushy medium-sized evergreen shrub with dark, glossy ovate leaves. In late winter and spring, deep pink buds open to pale pink or white flowers tipped with pink, contrasting with the dark red sepals. It's foliage is dark green all year round.

'Mountain Fire' is a bushy medium-sized evergreen shrub with red young leaves, turning coppery-green and finally dark green; flowers creamy-white, in branched panicles in mid spring. It's foliage, which is dark green in summer, autumn and winter, is red and dark green in spring.

The leaves and nectar of Pieris can cause severe discomfort if ingested, so try not to eat your plants!

I hope you can find room in your garden for at least one Pieris variety - I'm sure you won't be disappointed.
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