Common name: Andromeda
These handsome slow-growing evergreen shrubs with their graceful sprays of bell-shaped, in many ways reminiscent of lily of the valley, have become very popular in recent years. Some varieties, particularly ‘Forest Flame’ (AGM), are noted for their brilliant red new growths in spring. One thing that must never be forgotten is that they are lime-haters, so acid conditions are essential.
Today there are a considerable number of species and varieties from which to choose. Among those with white flowers are Pieris formosa, ‘Forest Flame’ (AGM), ‘Firecrest’ (AGM), and ‘Wakehurst’ (AGM); all have vivid red new spring growth. Flowering takes place from late winter until mid-spring.
There are some with dusky rose-pink blooms, and these are equally as attractive. They include ‘Blush’ (AGM), the young growth in this case is coppery-red, and ‘Flamingo’ with dark red buds opening to deep pink.
Soil type Moist, lime-free soils are essential.
Planting This can be carried out in the autumn or spring. Choose a lightly shaded spot where they are sheltered from cold winds. The new growth and buds of Pieris are vulnerable to frost. Top-dress the soil around the base of the shrubs annually in spring, using well-rotted leaf mould or peat.
Pruning Pruning is not generally required — any straggly branches can be removed in late winter if required. The flowers should be snipped off as soon as they have faded.
Propagation Take cuttings of half-ripe shoots, approximately 10cm (4in) long, in mid-summer. Layering is also possible although it usually takes two years for a good root system to form.
Pests and diseases Normally no problems are experienced with these shrubs.