A search for shrubs that look like lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) will take gardeners outside that sweetly fragrant spring flower's family. Lily of the valley, says the University of Idaho's advanced master gardener Michelle Tullis, is the Ruscaceae family’s single Convallaria species member. Other plant families, however, contain ornamental shrubs that mimic the delicate, urn-like blooms of lily of the valley. Their spring flowers coincide with convallaria’s. Some also have colorful fall or winter foliage.
A graceful and tough evergreen shrub, Japanese pieris (Pieris Japonica) can survive temperatures as low as minus 20 degrees F, which occur in USDA plant hardiness zone 5. The ‘Forest Flame’ Japanese pieris hybrid is a compact plant, standing 4 to 7 feet high and wide. Its brilliant red, new spring foliage fades to pink before taking on the glossy green it will keep through the rest of the year. In March and April, its hanging clusters of urn-shaped, white blooms appear. It has earned the nickname "lily-of-the-valley bush.” The plant likes a sunny to partly shady, well-drained location with protection from strong wind, according to the Missouri Botanical Garden. It grows best in humus-rich, moist, acidic soil with a pH below 6.8.
Decididuous fetterbush is a shrub of the lower New England and southern thickets, where it grows around ponds and streams. Standing between 4 and 6 1/2 feet high, with a similar spread, it has vivid green leaves. Between April and August, white lily of the valley-like blooms hang in rows from its twigs. Its red autumn foliage provides additional garden interest, according to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Fetterbush grows best in partial shade and moist, acidic sandy or loamy soil. Note that its foliage, flowers and nectar are toxic to cattle.
Tolerating zone 4 winters with temperatures plunging to minus 30 degrees F, evergreen mountain pieris (Pieris floribunda) grows on moist, wooded slopes across the South. It usually stands from 3 to 4 feet high and wide. Its rounded, bushy form has dense, bark-concealing foliage. In April, the ends of its stems bear linear, 3- to 4-inch clusters of white, urn-shaped flowers. The fragrant blooms contrast strikingly with the glossy green leaves. Cutting back the spent flowers results in a heavier bloom the following spring, according to the University of Connecticut Plant Database. Mountain pieris tolerates full sun to partial shade. It performs best in a well-drained, acidic location with protection from winter wind and excessive heat.
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