Enkianthus--Why don't more people grow it?

ginny12November 8, 2010

Enkianthus is such an outstanding shrub in acid-soil regions that it is amazing to me that you don't often see it. I have two. One is about 25 years old and the red color right now is spectacular.

It's covered in small flowers like lily of the valley in spring. By now it's about 10' tall but narrow. Good healthy foliage and absolutely zero care. I promise I have never touched this shrub to prune, fertilize or do anything else. What a blessed relief.

It is in mostly shade, moisture-retentive soil. The other one is on a shady dry hillside in tree roots and the fall color is yellow.

I rave about enkianthus to my gardening friends but no one has yet rushed to the nursery to get one. What a shame. I bet it would make an attractive hedge in the right growing conditions--not full sun, dry soil.

Mine are Enkianthus campanulatus but there are other species out there I have not grown.

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mainegrower(Z5b ME)

Enkianthus is wonderful genus of plants because of all the qualities you mention. A few mostly mail order nurseries sell several species and varieties, but the average nursery does not feature the plant nor have much in the way of selection. Some great plant species - corylopsis being another prime example in my view - just never seem to catch on. Sometimes this is due to difficulties in propagation or pot growing, but neither problem applies to these two species. It seems mostly to be continuing ignorance of a plant's great qualities and a failure of knowledge and imagination on the part of nurseries, landscapers and gardeners.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2010 at 6:06AM
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laceyvail(6A, WV)

While I have no trouble growing acid loving shrubs of all sorts, Enkianthus have been very weak growers for me. I've tried E. campanulatus--several cultivars, and E. perrulatus. Two small ones are hanging on, but none have done well. And they're not cheap.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2010 at 6:30AM
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I ran across several at my local home depot here in the quite rural northern edge of their range about 4 years ago. Since the price was relatively small, I bought one, at least partly as an experiment to see if it would survive here since the soil is just right for it. It's a nice enough shrub, but a bit underwhelming. In all areas (quantity and size of flowers, fall color, growth pattern) my high bush blueberries are more impressive, plus there are berries for the critters and me. Perhaps getting a named variety of Enkianthus would be better, but many of them seem a bit less hardy according to the nursery listings. I have enough room so that I won't be ripping this one out, but I'm not hunting around for another one either.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2010 at 10:26PM
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mainegrower(Z5b ME)

nhbabs: Some growers prpagate enkianthus by seed. The resulting plants vary a great deal and tend to be, as you say, underwhelming. Take a look at some of the named varieties available from Rare Find Nursery or Weston Nursery in MA. Bigger, brighter, darker colored flowers, variegated leaves in some, outstanding fall colors(in most years).

As long as the variety comes from e. campanulatus, I do not think you would have any hardiness worries.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2010 at 5:56AM
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Here it is Nov. 15 and my enkianthus is still gloriously scarlet while almost everything else is bare of any leaves. Oh, give it a try.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2010 at 4:05PM
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mikeygraz(5 Omaha, NE)

Any pics to share???

    Bookmark   November 23, 2010 at 11:29AM
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Thyme2dig NH Zone 5

Ginny, I picked one up a couple years ago. First fall I forgot to plant it and it actually overwintered in the pot without and protection. Last year I finally got it in the ground. It really is a nice shrub with great color that lasts and lasts. I agree more people should plant this shrub.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2010 at 9:14PM
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bogturtle(SE NJ 7a)

Agree that Enkianthus is a second to the highbush blueberry,V.corumbosum, as, with the blueberry you get similar looking flowers, magnificent Fall color, red winter stems and fruit.
My E. perulatus is thriving in this acid sand, in partial shade. Watering rescued it in a recent severe drought. Screaming scarlet at the moment, and an immediate attention grabber.
Also growing a cultivar E.'Sinsetu' I think.
Not equal to E. perulatus, as it is a dull yellow for me.
An article in Better Homes, Horticulture, or a mention by Martha Stewart might be all is needed to get the plant more widely known.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2010 at 9:22AM
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madtripper(5/6 Guelph)

Has anyone tried this shrub in slightly alkaline soil?
That is one of the reasons I have not tried it.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2010 at 11:33AM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

I'm also surprised more people don't grow it. It's a wonderful shrub, errr tree. that's part of the problem. It's not quite a tree or a shrub. Pruning can help decide what it should be in your garden.
Here's one of mine. Not showing it's best red color in this picture. It needs more exposure.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2010 at 8:48PM
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aka Redvein Enkianthus

Thanks for sharing the pic. I had E. campanulatus from Rare Find Nursery but gave it to my MIL due to limited space in my yard. I have clayish soil, used acid fertilizer each spring, and it did fine..I only had one season then passed it on. I'm anxious to see it this coming spring as it will have had a couple growing seasons to settle in.

Anyone else have pics to share?

    Bookmark   December 28, 2010 at 12:16PM
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arbo_retum(z5 ,WinchstrMA)

hmmmm ginny, maybe you're going to get me to reconsider this shrub. if i saw yours i bet i would love them but the only ones i have seen, in flower: i did not like the azalea like growth habit/stems/branches and wussy flowers.
i'd take my neillia hands down. but now that you've repositioned it in my consciousness, I'll seek out more to experience.
thanks ginny,

    Bookmark   December 29, 2010 at 1:06AM
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Now it is 2011 and in this year of fairly dull fall foliage, my two enkianthus are again outstanding. One is as bright red as imaginable; the other is bright gold.

And no care at all for these. Never prune, fertilize. And the deer have not touched them.

I have to put in a new hedge next year and I was thinking of blueberries. But we have BEARS moving into the area so no blueberries for me (or them). I am seriously thinking of a hedge of enkianthus.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2011 at 12:02PM
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Thyme2dig NH Zone 5

Ginny, thanks for the info that the deer seem to stay away from them. I've been thinking about planting some more shrubs in the back near the woods and now you've got me thinking about enkianthus. A nice little forest of them would look spectacular in fall.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2011 at 7:54PM
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How interesting. I'm in a new home and we have this tree/shrub on the side of our house. It's fall color is beautiful. I am embarrassed to say that until recently I didn't even know it was there. We have huge deer problems here and it is untouched. It's in an area that I will make a garden next year but I know the tree will stay. Thanks for giving it a name bc we couldn't figure it out.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2011 at 9:02AM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

A year or two ago I purchased this variety of Enkianthus c., 'Siko-kianus'. Now all I have to do is find a place to plant it. You can see where it's a lighter color on the shady side. I moved it from it's location in a sea of pots so I could get a picture of it. Ideal placement would show the color gradation in the Fall, rather than just seeing the sunny or shady side.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2011 at 4:41AM
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Funny that you mention wanting a hedge of these - I just discovered this plant while looking for suitable hedge plants. I plan to plant a varied hedge of enkianthus, calycanthus-Carolina Allspice (for the scent), and possibly some viburnum (for the colorful berries), ilex glabra - inkberry (because I like its neat form & cute black berries), red hydrangea (because they were on sale) and maybe some lilacs because one can never have enough lilacs (I love the scent). I might plant some joe-pye weed in there too because it's tall and smells nice. I was searching for shrubs that are more tall than wide, upright, with a neat habit, not invasive, that will stand up to wind, harsh midday sun, road salt (the hedge will run along the side yard of my corner property) and occasional drought. I hope the hedge will screen my patio furniture from the busy street to help prevent my patio furniture from being stolen. I just didn't want the standard uniform green hedge where the brown spots/dead plants stand out so badly. With my varied hedge, if something dies, I can take it out, no one will miss it! I love boxwood but my boxwood keep dying so that wouldn't work. I'm actually driving to Rare Find Nursery this week to buy these plants. I'll let you know how it works out.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2012 at 11:05PM
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This genus must simply suffer from bad PR- if it had a snazzy common name and a celebrity endorsement it would sell like hotcakes. People won't buy what they can't pronounce- if someone marketed a variety as "Scarlet Sensation" or some such it would sell.

I am totally unfamiliar with it, but shall remedy that immediately!

    Bookmark   May 22, 2012 at 7:06AM
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Pictured here is Enkianthus campanulatus, as seen from below, taken on May 2. Problem-free, never seen lacebug on it. Not unusual to see volunteers in the mossy areas near the parents.
Enkianthus takes a while to come into its own. In the average retail nursery, customers pass by this plant in favor of the loud, flashy alternatives. Those are the people who prefer a landscape to look like a detergeant box.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2012 at 8:25AM
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Funny to see this thread pop up again since I started it a few years ago.

My SIL was visiting this weekend. She's a gardener too and was wowed by my enkianthus-es in full bloom. The flowers are small so it is something to appreciate from nearby. She made me email her the name so she could look for it where she lives in Philadelphia.

I really do think it is a name problem. People can't pronounce it, if they have ever even seen it. What a shame.

And OT, my SIL also fell in love with Polygonum bistorta, a beautiful perennial now in full bloom and another you don't see often. I saw it in an English garden book years ago and had to hunt for it but it has given me many years of pleasure in my very shady perennial border. But no common name! so you rarely see it. Think they changed the Latin name too, to Persicaria bistorta.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2012 at 10:30AM
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