Leucothoe axillaris, has anyone had success with this one?

prairiemoon2 z6 MAOctober 13, 2009

Sorry for cross posting, it was by mistake.

These end of season sales always get to me. I brought home another impulse buy, a Leucothoe axillaris that is just so healthy and pretty taking on some red tones for the fall. The photo on the tag of spring bloom closed the deal. [g] Now I get home and read posts from people who have found it fussy and don't grow them any more. Would like to figure out how I can have better luck with it. Any experiences would be helpful.

Thanks :-)

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As this is the case with a most broadleaf evergreens it might be winterburned (have a Wilt-pruf ready!) and look somewhat ratty in a spring. However, it will recoup fairly fast and by May will look OK again.
I wouldn't call it a 'front of the border' or 'stand alone' plant, but as a filler in a part-shade natural mix-border it serves its purpose.
I have it in a several locations and the best looking one is in NW exposure protected from the late winter burning sun.
Other than that I don't see why people would call it fuzzy, unless grown in alcaline soil :-)

    Bookmark   October 13, 2009 at 4:04PM
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I have no idea why they would be considered fussy and my nursery certainly sells a lot of them :-) They can get leaf spot under certain conditions and I can see how colder climates could create some winter foliage damage but I wouldn't particularly call them hard to grow or fussy about conditions. And I especially like the bronzing/russeting of the foliage in response to cold weather. They like similar growing requirements to most other Ericaceae - acidic, fertile soil, even moisture and a bit of shade from the heat of the day.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2009 at 7:39PM
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I had two (L. fontanesia 'Rollisonii') on either side of the back steps (morning sun - northeast) and they were always looking awful. Tons of foliage damage throughout the season. (or maybe I was not into pruning as much back then and left too much???).

I moved them to my front dry shade shrub border (same sun conditions) and they have done very well there. There are more surrounding trees that might be providing some winter protection. Also have a 'Rainbow' that does well too. My neighbor has tried to grow Leucothoe and was never happy with them and finally ripped them out.

I think, but am not sure, that as mine have matured they seem tougher.

Maybe the coast leucothoe will be more adaptable than the more popular drooping

    Bookmark   October 13, 2009 at 8:52PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Ego, does northwest exposure mean it is located in the northwest corner of your property getting morning sun or that it is facing northwest? My northwest corner has an open post and rail fence and a Maple tree on the west side, with a solid stockade fence along the north border and spruces behind it. So the wind come from the west through there.

Gardengal, I guess zone 8 would have fewer challenges. I do like the way the foliage turns color in the cold weather, too.

Wendy, your back sounds like my front. So those that are doing well are in morning sun with no wind. That would be my front yard.

I want to add it to a part shade border with shrubs and perennials. I have a few areas I can put it. I really like the way it looks next to a 'Kopper King' Hibiscus, in front of a Butterfly Bush, but that's 5-6hrs of sun. It would be facing south, but with spruce trees behind it and maples to the west of it. It would be in a raised bed with good drainage and have more opportunity for moisture, then if I put it in one of the shadier locations that might be just under the edge of a tree canopy. A second location would be more northwest where it will be drier from tree roots, but would be in shade from 1pm on and be exposed to more wind. I could put it behind the Butterfly Bush facing South, which would give it more shade but it would be under the drip line of one of the spruces that are behind that border. My loamy clay is about 6-6.5ph in most places. The only place there is no wind would be in the east/southeast in the front of the house, where it would be in morning sun with the house behind it for protection. I can't place it there this year, but if it doesn't work where I want to put it this year, I could possibly move it there next year. It cost me $20. so at least if it doesn't like me, it wasn't a big investment. I have a feeling I am going to be moving it a few times.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2009 at 5:48AM
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PM, NW exposure means it facing NW, getting healthy dose (3-4hours) of sun in a summer and almost none in a winter.
Generally, the less sun and wind it will get in a winter the better plant will look in a spring.
IMO, if you have a chance to overwinter it in garage or somewhere not exposed, this upcoming winter and plant in a spring'2010 you'll be much less discouraged by its spring look.
Then plant will have the whole summer to settle and build the root system to better withstand the next winter.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2009 at 9:06AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Well, that's interesting. Facing NW in my yard, the closest would be the back foundation beds of my house that face due West. I'm glad I asked. My detached garage has a door that doesn't close all the way and needs fixing and I think it gets almost as cold inside as out. Maybe I should plant it in the back foundation bed or find a place in the front to park it until the spring and then move it. I could do that. I also have an empty space on the north side of a stockade fence that is on the south property line, I could plant it very close to the fence. I'll have to look around and see if I can figure out somewhere out of the winter sun and wind.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2009 at 9:42AM
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that is interesting that facing NW is good for winter. I thought a NE facing spot is worst (head on to a nor'easter) so NW would be "next worst" (excuse the grammar).

I always thought SW is best for winter (opposite of NE).

ALtho, in all cases, each case is different depending on the trees and/or structures that protect it from the prevailing winds.

Actually, now that I break it down like this, I guess the big difference is whether going for sun or wind protection. I'm focusing on wind. I think that is worse. A protected location for wind is going to be worse for sun by definition. n'est ce pas?

    Bookmark   October 14, 2009 at 1:57PM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

No. You can take my backyard for example. The house faces almost due north. However, in the middle of the backyard are two large pin oaks. Even in the winter, deciduous trees can provide enough shade so broadleaf evergreens don't fry. So I have happy boxwood and mountain laurels in the backyard where the house protects them from the wind, and the trees shade them from the sun.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2009 at 2:30PM
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the front of the house faces north?

What if you didn't have the trees? Then they are south facing and protected from the wind.

Which is worse in winter, wind or sun? I guess it depends on the plant.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2009 at 6:24PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

In addition to leaf spot I have seen some pretty bad foliage mildew on leucothoes in this area. In fact, I have pretty much stopped planting them.

We also get mildew on some of the native salal, and it is so bad on some kinds of rhododendrons they defoliate and die.

So much for it being easier in Zone 8.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2009 at 7:51PM
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Yea, right. When you have to fight on two fronts, wind and sun, you have to chose who is your(plant's) biggest enemy.
Obviously, everyone's situation is different, but I found the hard way that [in my garden] E exposure is the worst enemy to all broadleaf evergreens, while anything planted in N and NW exposure have a minimal winter sunburn damage despite W being the most opened to winds.
The only exceptions to this are Pierises, for some unknown to me reason they have no sunburn in any exposure, E, S or W.
Now, when I start thinking about it, all my hydrangeas in E exposure blooms much poorly (or not bloom at all) than the same cultivars growing in a S-W-N exposures.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2009 at 9:11PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

This discussion of exposure is very helpful. Since I rarely get the placement right on any plant and end up moving them more than once. Maybe this will help me figure it out better this time around.

I have to agree Wendy, that depending on trees and structures, locations can differ so much. The way the neighbor's trees and all our fences are situated, it has created a wind 'alley' effect down one of my borders, from West to East. I am still experimenting with what works. I could plant a taxus at one end that might cut down on wind there, but I grow perennials in that border and my veggie garden is near there and I thought the wind is probably an asset as far as keeping down the mildew diseases.

I only have a few evergreens and I'm adding more, little by little. I did have someone come and prune for me in the spring and he remarked that he was surprised that my boxwood do so well. They rarely have any winter damage. I must have just got lucky because I didn't even know about winter damage when I planted them. [g] One is in the front facing East with the house behind, another is in the back against the house facing west and one is on the north side of my southern lot line, stockade fence. So maybe this would be good locations for the leucothoe?

Sorry to hear about your leaf problems in zone 8, BBoy. I guess every zone has it's challenges.

Ego....that sounds right to me too. Because I've read that the morning sun hitting the evergreens is what causes the problem, when they warm up and then get cold again, right? I find I have the most difficult time deciding to plant anything in my northern exposures though. It always seems so dark there, I'm afraid to put anything there. [g] And my West exposure does get sun in the afternoon. I haven't figured out yet, how much wind the plants are exposed to in those beds. They have the house behind them. I don't think I have a bed with a Northwest exposure.

I'm happy to hear you aren't getting sunburn on the Pierises. I have just bought two of them in the last year and I enjoy them. One is facing East and I am planting the other facing south in the shade of a Maple.

Interesting that you should mention the hydrangea bloom, ego. I read that you were supposed to plant them facing East and that is where most of them went. I have noticed that I don't get as much bloom as I thought I should. I moved one into a more Southeast location and it is blooming better and I plan on adding another one in the spring that would get a more southern exposure too.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2009 at 7:14AM
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Thyme2dig NH Zone 5

PM2, up here in zone 5 I have 3 of them all planted next to a picket fence near the house on the W side of the house. They get pretty much full shade from the house, fence and a japanese maple tree. I LOVE these shrubs. Honestly, I have no idea what they do over the winter because we've been buried by 3' of snow for the past few years. But in spring and through the summer they have looked great. I haven't had any problems with them looking ratty and the foliage is a great color.

Here are a few pics over this gardening season.
May 29

July 5

Oct 15

    Bookmark   October 17, 2009 at 4:16PM
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I planted a new cultivar L. axillaris 'Red Curls' last Fall, which has curly leaves that take on a red color in the winter. I will have to say that they establish slowly. I had to cut off alot of winter damage in the Spring and water them regularly this summer or they would start to brown along the leaf edges. Since it's their first year, I cannot tell how they will ultimately do, but I think I will try to use some wiltpruf this winter to help them along.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2009 at 10:44AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

thyme2dig, that was so nice of you to go to the trouble of posting photos taken at different times during the season. You must be very organized. :-) Very helpful to see how it changes. I did finally get my shrub into the ground and get a photo of it. I may have the same conditions that you have. Here is a photo I took today and it was noon time with no sun on it. The sun was already behind a tree to the west of it. The fence is on my southern border and the shrub is to the north of it.

Sorry to hear you are having problems with yours, spazzycat. You are warmer and humid there in zone 7, yes?

    Bookmark   October 19, 2009 at 7:27PM
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Thyme2dig NH Zone 5

PM2, Your shrub is gorgeous!

I'm actually not organized at all! I happened to buy a new camera this year so took lots of photos of the garden as the seasons progressed. I threw them all on picasa fairly quickly after taking each batch and then would label the first photo of that batch with the date as the caption. It was a quick way to keep track which I've never done before. I have always found myself guessing every year when something would bloom. Now I have a photo journal to a certain extent.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2009 at 5:30PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Thyme2 that is so funny, that is what I do too...lol. We traded from our constantly, irritatingly breaking down PC to an Apple about a year and a half ago and since then, I've loved keeping my garden photos like a garden journal. The software on Apple is called iPhoto and it is very easy to use. It dates everything as you upload it and organizes them in lots of different ways. I do also keep a spreadsheet that I use for a Garden Journal, just dating each entry and making lists, but the photos are the easiest way to figure out when something blooms. I am tickled with my shrub, the red color is great, I wonder if it will stay that way over the winter. I do hope it does well for me. Yours looks fabulous too! I love the shiny leaves.

Thanks again thyme2 :-)

    Bookmark   October 20, 2009 at 8:14PM
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