Sometimes called "redclaw," escallonia flowering shrubs bear thorns on their branches. Bees, butterflies and hummingbirds pollinate the flowers and add aerial delight to a garden. Although primarily producing their flowers in summer, sporadic re-blooming in the mild months of fall occurs on the many species of escallonia flowering shrubs.
Escallonia shrubs are flowering plants, classified as angiosperms. Between 50 and 60 different species exist, all grouped into a genus called Escallonia, which doubles as its common name. All escallonia plants share flowering characteristics with members of the Grossulariaeae, or currant, family.
Found only in the highland or montane regions of central and western South America, most species naturally grow in Chile, Argentina, Uruguay or extreme southwestern Brazil.
Gardeners enjoy fewer than 10 species of escallonia shrubs in landscapes, typically those with exceptional flower beauty or ease of culture. Some wild species of note include: Escallonia bifida (synonym Escallonia montevidensis), Escallonia leucantha, Escallonia rubra, Escallonia rosea and Escallonia virgata.
Horticulturists cross-breed wild species, too, to yield highly ornamental shrubs, one being Escallonia x exoniensis. Numerous complex-lineage shrubs also exist, assigned cultivar names such as "Apple Blossom," "C.F. Ball," "Donard Radiance," "Donard Seedling," "Edinensis," "Iveyi," "Peach Blossom," "Pride of Donard," "Red Elf," "Crimson Spire" and "Woodside."
Primarily blooming in the warmth of summer, escallonia shrubs form loose clusters of white, pink or reddish flowers from their branch tips. Each blossom comprises five petals to form an overall flower with a cup-, saucer-, or chalice-like shape. Escallonia foliage remains evergreen and looks attractive because of its glossy, dark green color. The leaves' shape ranges from oval to narrow lances.
In general, these shrubs grow best in fertile soils that remain moist but drain freely, never water-logging or remaining soggy after rains. Soil pH preferences range from acidic to alkaline (4.5 to 8.5), and the addition of organic matter to sandy or rocky soils improves plant health. In hot climates, provide only 3 to 6 hours of direct, shifting sunlight daily. Elsewhere, these shrubs tolerate full sun, or over 8 hours of direct sunshine daily.
The broad-leaf foliage desiccates in cold, dry winds in winter; due to this, the gardener should locate the shrubs in a sheltered garden location. Escallonia shrubs grow well in USDA hardiness zones 8 and 9, where temperatures never dip below 20 to 25 degrees Fahrenheit and the number of days over 86 degrees annually falls between 90 and 150 days. Western North American gardeners use the Sunset Climate Zone ratings, which for these plants are 4 to 9 and 14 to 24.
Use escallonia shrubs as windbreaks, especially in coastal regions. In the garden setting, they become lovely specimen shrubs in a mixed border or as a minimally pruned hedge or screen. Train and prune them to become narrow, formal-looking espaliers on building facades, too.