LEUCOTHOE

FAMILY: Ericaceae

TYPE
  • Deciduous
  • Evergreen
  • Shrubs
SUN EXPOSURE
  • Partial Shade
  • Full Shade
WATER
  • Varies by Species
PLANTING ZONES
  • US (Upper South) / Zone 6
  • MS (Middle South) / Zone 7
  • LS (Lower South) / Zone 8
SPECIAL FEATURES
  • Poisonous/Toxic

Plant Details

These arching shrubs have leathery leaves and clusters of small, urn-shaped white flowers reminiscent of lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria). They need acid, well-drained, woodsy, deep soil; do best in woodland gardens. Best used in masses, since they are not especially attractive individually. Bronze-tinted winter foliage is a bonus. Not easy to grow; short lived in most gardens.

coastal leucothoe

leucothoe axillaris

  • Evergreen.
  • Native to southeastern U.S. Spreading, arching growth to 24 feet tall, 36 feet wide.
  • Leathery leaves to 4 inches long are bronzy when new.
  • Flower clusters, 13 inches long, droop along stems in spring.
  • Regular water.
  • Curly Red features puckered leaves that emerge red and purple, turn dark green in summer, and change to burgundy in fall.

drooping leucothoe

leucothoe fontanesiana

  • Evergreen.
  • Native to southeastern U.S. Slow grower to 26 feet high and wide; branches arch gracefully.
  • Leathery, 3- to 6 inches-long leaves turn bronzy purple in fall (bronzy green in deep shade).
  • Spreads from underground stems.
  • Blooms in spring, bearing drooping clusters of slightly fragrant flowers.
  • Rainbow grows 34 feet high, has leaves marked yellow, green, and pink.
  • Lovita is also smaller than the species (2 feet tall, 4 feet wide), with smaller, darker green leaves that turn mahogany red in winter.
  • Scarletta is similar in size to 'Lovita'; its leaves are brilliant red on expanding, deep green in summer, and deep red in late fall and winter.

The species and its selections take regular water. You can control the plants' height to make a 1 feet ground cover in shade; just cut older, taller stems to ground. Blooming branches make decorative cut flowers. Where summers are hot and humid, various leaf spot diseases can cause serious disfiguration or defoliation.

sweetbells

leucothoe racemosa

  • Deciduous.
  • Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9.
  • Native to southeastern U.S. Grows 38 feet tall and wide, with 3 inches leaves that turn red before dropping from their red stems in autumn.
  • Flowers in one-sided, 3 inches clusters at ends of branches in late spring or early summer.
  • Suckers to form colonies.
  • A pink-flowering form is available.
  • Moderate water.

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