This refined cousin of the rhododendron and azalea mixes beautifully with its relatives and various acid growers such as ferns and other woodland plants. A neat evergreen shrub with a compact habit, pieris requires no pruning. It grows slowly to 6 to 12 feet high and 6 to 8 feet wide, with a slightly drooping habit. Its delicate sprays of buds, white or pink flowers, seed capsules, attractive deep green mature foliage, and brilliantly-colored bronzy red new foliage in spring make it singularly beautiful throughout the year. As a specimen, part of a shrub border, a mass planting, or a container subject, it is a classic for medium to light shade. Several cultivars are available, including a variegated compact form with white-edged leaves.
Buds appear in autumn, and develop in late winter or early spring into gracefully pendulous 6-inch clusters of white or pinkish bell-shaped blossoms resembling lily-of-the-valley—hence one of its common names. IiIy-of-the-valley shrub. The flowers are long-lasting.Thin. oblong leaves. to 3 inches long and an inch wide. are pink to bronzy red as they emerge in spring.
They mature to glossy, ossy deep green, creating a tiered effect. In most climates light shade is good. but particularly in very hot climates, medium shade is best. Pieris should be sheltered from the wind and winter sun in cold areas. Soil should be rich, high in organic content, acid, and fast-draining. If pruning is ever necessary—and it never is, except to shape the plant—prune immediately after flowering. Crown rot. fungus leaf spot, a die-back fungus, lace bugs, scales. and mites can be severe problems unless controlled by appropriate sprays.
P. floribunda (Mountain Pieris, Mountain Andromeda; Zones 5 to 8 ), native to the eastern United States, is quite similar to P. japonica in appearance and requirements but more compact and smaller (2 to 6 feet high and wide), and it flowers in April. Flowers are pure white. A very old specimen in an English garden is 6 feet high and 15 feet wide. P. floribunda is less vulnerable to pests than is P. japonica.
P. ‘Forest Flame’, a 6 to 7-foot hybrid between P. japonica and P. forestii, has vivid scarlet new growth and is hardier than P. forestii.
P. forestii (Chinese Pieris) is more tender than other species. It closely resembles them but is denser and larger, and its new growth is more brilliantly colored. Hardy to Zone 8.