Elegant in foliage and form the year around, these plants make good companions for rhododendron and azalea, to which they are related. They have narrowly oval, glossy, medium to dark green leaves and bear clusters of small, urn-shaped, typically white flowers. Most plants form flower buds by autumn; these resemble strings of tiny beads in greenish pink, red, or white and provide a subtle decorative feature in winter. Flowers open from midwinter to midspring. New spring growth is often brightly colored (pink to red or bronze). Splendid in containers, in woodland and Japanese gardens, or in entryways where year-round quality is essential.
Choose a planting location sheltered from wind, where plants will get high shade or dappled sunlight at least during the warmest afternoon hours. Where summers are cool or foggy, they can take more sun. Need acid, well-drained but moisture-retentive soil. Where water is high in salts, soil needs careful leaching. Prune by removing spent flowers. Thin older specimens by taking out whole branches; or limb them up to reveal attractive peeling bark.
Upright, dense, tiered growth to 9–10 ft. tall and wide. New leaves are bronzy pink to red; mature ones are glossy green. Drooping clusters of white, pink, or nearly red flowers; flower buds are often dark red.
The following, some of which are hybrids, are grown for smaller-than-usual size or unusual foliage. Flowers are white unless otherwise noted.
‘Crispa’: To 6–7 ft. tall and wide, with handsome wavy-edged leaves.
‘Dorothy Wyckoff’: Deep red buds open into pink flowers that age to white. Bronzy new foliage. Vigorous, compact grower.
‘Flaming Silver’: Excellent hybrid plant to 4–5 ft. tall and wide. Young leaves are red with pink margins, mature ones green with white edges.
‘Little Heath’: To 2–4 ft. tall and wide, with gray-green leaves edged in creamy white.
‘Mountain Fire’: Fiery red new growth.
‘Purity’: To 3–4 ft. tall and wide. Late bloomer with unusually large white flowers.
Native to Japan. Grows rapidly when young, ultimately to 40–60 ft. tall (to 100 ft. tall in perf...
Native to moist places from the British Isles to Siberia and south to the Caucasus and Turkey; resents...
Native to China. Grows to 40 ft. tall and 25 ft. wide. Like European fruiting pear in appearance, but ...