Having the same growing requirements as rhododendrons and azaleas, the Japanese pieris (Pieris japonica) is also sometimes called the lily-of-the-valley shrub because of its chains of tiny white flowers. Beautiful in the garden either planted in the ground or in containers, the foliage looks elegant year round, and the flower buds and flowers add interest from fall to spring.
Locate a spot in the garden to plant your Japanese pieris that is sunny to partially shaded and where it will receive between four and eight hours of direct sunlight each day. In hot summer areas, a little shade from a tree or building is beneficial in the hottest part of the afternoon.
Dig a hole for planting that is the same depth as the root ball of the shrub purchased at the garden nursery but twice as wide.
Place the shrub into the planting hole and backfill the hole with the soil, making sure the root ball is at the same depth or 1 inch higher than the top of the planting hole. Water the plant to allow the soil to settle. Create a small berm around the plant to create a "moat" to retain water the next time you irrigate.
Scatter a layer of organic mulch such as pink bark, pine straw or oak leaf mold around the base of the Japanese pieris to a depth of 3 to 4 inches and as wide as 12 inches beyond the ends of the branches.
Prune the shrub only after the flowering ends in spring. Prune errant branches to 1/4-inch above another branch, leaf or dormant bud. Do not prune after midsummer, as you will be removing flowers for next spring.
Scatter an all-purpose, granular, slow-release fertilizer, such as 10-10-10, over the root zone in spring each year. Consult the product label directions for dosage.
Things You Will Need
- Organic mulch
- Determine your USDA Hardiness Zone at the National Gardening Association's website, as determined by your ZIP code. Japanese pieris is hardy outdoors only in USDA zones 5 through 8. In colder regions, this plant will need to be grown in containers and overwintered indoors where it is less cold. This shrub will not grow and flower where winters are too warm and mild, as in USDA zones 9 and warmer.
- The soil in the garden or container must be fertile and rich in organic matter such as compost or peat. The pH of the soil must be acidic to neutral (5.0 to 7.0).
- Japanese pieris tolerates winter cold better if not planted in a windy location. In USDA Zone 5, shelter it so that winter winds do not dry and scald the foliage, such as near a fence or evergreen hedge.
- Large, older specimens have attractive peeling bark on their trunks. Consider removing lowermost branches to reveal the bark, making the shrub look like a miniature tree.
- Of all species of Pieris common in gardens, the Japanese pieris is most tolerant of soils that may be slightly alkaline. Use lots of organic mulch, however, to promote best growth.
- Pruning branch tips after July will reduce flowers next spring. The thread-like flower buds are formed and elongated, becoming more ornamental as the summer and fall progresses. Rarely does this shrub need pruning to look its best.
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