Caryopteris divaricata 'Blue Butterflies' hardiness

aachenelf z5 MplsSeptember 13, 2007

What's the possibility of this one overwintering in zone 4-5? I've done some checking and various sites list it as hardy mainly in zone 5-6, but a couple have said zone 4. It's been a really long time since we've had a typical MN winter with subzero temps for any length of time, but I suppose that could happen again.

Should I take a chance?


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john_4b(z4b WI)

Take the chance. It probably is at least root hardy and will bounce back every spring from the ground. That is what happens with C. 'Worchester Gold' in my garden in zone 4b and it is 3-4 feet tall and wide and in full bloom right now. I usually intentionally cut it back in the spring to reshape it too.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2007 at 5:34PM
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This perennial is worth the effort. If you don't mulch heavily, it will re-seed itself. Mine just finished blooming, while it's woody/subshrub cousins C. x cladonensis are just starting. I like the "whiskers" on the tiny flowers, it resembles Clerodendrum ugandense, which isn't hardy in my zone. But I don't like it's stinky foliage. Pee-eww plant is an understatement.

Now if I can only get 'Snow Fairy' to bloom, I'll be very happy.


    Bookmark   September 13, 2007 at 8:05PM
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david_5311(Z 5b/6a SE Mich)

Never heard of this cultivar name before, but the species C. divaricata is a fully hardy perennial in zone 5b anyway. Lived in my old garden for 10 years and the new one for 3. Is the cultivar just like the normal perennial species?

By the way, for people who haven't grown Snow Fairy yet, it is one of the very best shrubby variegated perennials for foliage effect in this zone. After about 3 years in the ground, a small plant moved here from the old garden, it makes a wonderful big shrubby plant 40" tall and 4' across. Very striking variegated plant from a long distance. Mine is blooming quite well right now, but the flowers are a tad smaller than on the species, slightly less numerous, and are really outshined in a major way by the variegated foliage. I got 6 more this year and I am planting them as accent plants in my borders. They really have fabulous presence in the garden and are impervious to weather and pests.

(Hi John....)

    Bookmark   September 13, 2007 at 9:17PM
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C. divaricata is a strong grower here (the species as well as 'Snow Fairy').

The straight species has been a disappointment so far as far as floral impact, even though I have it planted at the edge of a path so I can see the small flowers close up. I cut it back by slightly more than half in late spring, but I've still got a shrubby 4 1/2 foot plant with a very high foliage to flower ratio.
This is not a problem with "Snow Fairy", where the flowers are a small bonus and the foliage is the major attraction.

Caryopteris incana is also blooming here (from seed sown in late winter indoors). It has not overwintered in my garden. The form "Sunshine Blue" has survived the winter, but was a wimp in its second season.

In other Caryopteris news, "Worcester Gold", which was a sizable shrub in my garden, got caught by the late spring freeze and heavily damaged, but has recovered to make a two-foot shrub which I hope will eventually reestablish its former glory.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2007 at 9:25AM
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aachenelf z5 Mpls

This is great news. Thanks so much. I didn't realize these were easy to start from seed. I'll have to look into that too since I start so many plants that way.


    Bookmark   September 14, 2007 at 11:15AM
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david_5311(Z 5b/6a SE Mich)

In my new garden I have divisions of the same species plant that I got from Arrowhead Alpines years ago. Though it won't win any contests with roses or lilies for showy blooms, for me it is still a desirable garden plant for its interesting, clerodendrum like flowers (each about an inch in size), which come in August and September when anything this color for me is desirable. And mine makes enough flowers to have a 'cloud' of bloom (maybe more like a cirrus cloud than a thunderhead, but still at least mildly showy). My species plants get to be about 5' tall in a season. Eric makes a good point that it should be planted someplace where the flowers can be seen up fairly close. Allen Armitage put down the species as not worthy of having in a garden (can't recall the exact words, something like that...) in favor of Snow Fairy, but the two are so different in garden effect that they are both worth having. Be aware that the foliage of the species is rather bad smelling (to quote an old Heronswood catalog -- 'odor from a 60s dorm room, a combo of old gym socks and marijuana' or something like that. Don't we all miss that catalog?....).

    Bookmark   September 14, 2007 at 3:17PM
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laceyvail(6A, WV)

David, I got a plant of C. divaricata on your recommendation a few years ago, and, aside from the smell (which, however, makes it reliably deer proof), I love it. Now I'll have to find the right place for 'Snow Fairy'.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2007 at 6:48AM
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By the way, I've never noticed any foliage odor emanating from my C. divaricata, even though I sometimes brush against it going up the garden path. I suppose if I crushed the leaves and smelled them, they might have a funky smell.

Then again, I have a laid-back attitude towards plants with supposedly odorous foliage and/or flowers. I enjoy Gynura bicolor for the old sweatsock-scented yellow flowers, and am looking forward to the first flowering (next summer?) of Amorphophallus konjac (my clump is now about 5 feet high and 3 feet wide, with bizarrely enjoyable semi-tropical foliage).

    Bookmark   September 15, 2007 at 10:30PM
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aachenelf z5 Mpls

Eric - My konjac bloomed for the first time last spring. I think it was late March or April so the event took place inside my house. Let's just say the experience was eye watering. Gotta love those things.


    Bookmark   September 16, 2007 at 4:35AM
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aachenelf z5 Mpls

I happened to find this old thread when I was Googling info about this plant. Just as a follow-up (3 years late), both of my plants have survived beautifully for 3 years now in my zone 4-5 garden with no winter protection. I absolutely adore this plant!!


    Bookmark   May 1, 2010 at 4:10PM
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Thanks Kevin. I am going to try some.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2011 at 7:25PM
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Kevin -

Thanks for coming back to add your experience. I was looking for info on hardiness since most other places I've seen suggest zone 6. Nice to know that it is worth trying here.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2013 at 8:22PM
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Love to see such updates. Thanks very much Kevin.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 5:17PM
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aachenelf z5 Mpls

Boy, this is an old thread.

It will be interesting to see how this plan manages this winter. 12 below again last night and no snow cover. Back into the 30âÂÂs above this weekend.
Here are some photos showing the progression from June until it blooms anytime from August until early October. I havenâÂÂt figured out what triggers the flowers, but I think itâÂÂs a handsome plant even without blooms


    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 4:43PM
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You read my mind Kevin as I was going to ask you to post pictures. How tall is your plant by September? Do you find that its blooms are stopped in the fall by the onset of cold weather ie frost? I ask as although I like fall blooming plants too often they are cut short by sometimes too soon to happen cold weather.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 5:44PM
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Excuse my ignorance but are Caryopteris 'Lil Miss Sunshine' and 'Sterling Silver' and 'Petit Blue' in the same family as your 'Blue Butterflies'? (What does that 'divaricata' mean to 'Caryopteris'?)

This post was edited by rouge21 on Fri, Feb 1, 13 at 19:26

    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 6:58PM
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katob Z6ish, NE Pa

I'm sure someone else will give you a more accurate answer but 'divaricata' is the species (a family is a different part of classification). The cultivars (such as sterling silver etc) are mostly within the same species but sometimes you get crossovers and in the garden the species start to mingle (usually giving you an x somewhere in the name....

I remember seeing a weak little snow fairy plant a couple years ago and wondered how they could get away with calling it a perennial (it does look Clerodendrum-ish) I guess it really is hardy. One more thing to keep an eye out for!

    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 8:28PM
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aachenelf z5 Mpls

Kato is correct. The ones you mentioned are all: Caryopteris x clandonensis ......

I'm sure it would be possible to track down the complete lineage for each, although sometimes you have to do a lot of Googling to find what you're looking for if it's even out there.

As to height, this one tops out at about 4+ feet by the end of the year. I've found the flowers handle some frost without problems if they bloom really late, but the last couple of years they've been blooming much earlier. In that case, the plant can be in bloom for at least 6 weeks or more.

These root very easily from cuttings and I've even found a few seedlings from time to time. Seedlings found in the spring can be 2 feet tall by fall and even bloom the first year.


    Bookmark   February 2, 2013 at 8:08AM
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aachenelf z5 Mpls

OK, I got curious and did some Googling as to where these hybrids originated and found this:

"Though several Caryopteris species are grown in botanical gardens, as ornamental plants the species have largely been superseded in gardens by the hybrid Caryopteris ÃÂ clandonensis (C. incana ÃÂ C. mongholica). The accidental cross that produced it occurred in the garden of Arthur Simmonds at Clandon, near Guildford, Surrey.[5] In 1930, wishing to propagate C. mongholica, he gathered seeds from a plant that was growing near C. mastacanthus. When the seedlings eventually flowered in their second year, hybrids appeared. The final selection, however, was made of a self-sown volunteer that appeared under C. mastacanthus, and eventually smothered it. It began winning Royal Horticultural Society medals in 1933."

I find this stuff fascinating and it proves once again - you have to have at least a basic understanding of botanical names.


    Bookmark   February 2, 2013 at 8:28AM
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Thanks Kevin and 'kato'.

It will be interesting if your 'Blue Butterflies' survives thie trying winter weather. Please report back!

    Bookmark   February 2, 2013 at 1:59PM
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