Nothing Beats Pieris for Cold Weather Flowers
One of my favorite plants shines when all the others are dormant—Pieris. It is also called Andromeda, but Pieris is easier to say. It has some wonderful features. It is evergreen with beautiful, shiny leaves. It is tall and narrow, but not too tall—one of the few plants that actually fits long-term in the tight places near entrance steps, flanking doorways, without spilling out on to the sidewalk and blocking the way. In early spring the new foliage is bright red. In fall, the flower buds are crimson. Not only that, this polite little plant blooms its heart out with large clusters of pinkish white bells in January!
I wonder why it remains undiscovered by landscape designers. There are wonderful cultivars out there, with self-explanatory names like “Mountain Fire’ or ‘Purity’, but my favorite is the wonderful ‘Dorothy Wycoff’. She produces gorgeous blooms, and stays small and refined—perfect as a front bed filler, maxing out at five feet tall and only three feet wide.
Pieris likes slightly acid soils and can handle a moderate amount of light shade. It prefers well-drained soil and cool feet, so provide an adequate amount of mulch each year. It is hardy from zones 5 through 8. Deer hate it, so it makes a great woodland plant, but the medium coarse texture and delicate growth make a good contrast to the regular, bread-and-butter foundation plants, too. Growth is slow and it is vulnerable to nearby bullies. Give it a little room to breathe, because vigorous neighbors can easily overpower it.
If you are looking for a plant to love in January, this is the one.