With its red sprouting foliage and bell-shaped flowers, the Pieris quickly catches the eye. In addition, it is also an excellent bee pasture.
The shade bell, as the pieris (Pieris) is also called, is impressive individually but also as a hedge. The evergreen shrubs are easy to care for and can withstand even frosty temperatures. What is proper care and how to plant Pieris, you can learn here.
Pieris: flower, origin and properties
Pieris is a genus of plants with a total of seven different species within the heather family (Ericacea). They originate from the Caribbean, East Asia as well as North America. Two species, namely Pieris floribunda and Pieris japonica, can also grow in our central European latitudes. With about ten centimetres of growth per year shade bells grow quite slowly. Pieris are evergreen perennial shrubs that can reach sizes of two to four metres. They have nothing to do with the lavender. Only the spiral arrangement of the leaves reminds the lavender plant. The leaves are leathery, with entire margins and lance-shaped. In autumn, depending on the species, the foliage turns reddish-brown. In spring, Pieris comes into bloom. The bell-shaped flowers are in clusters or panicles and can be white or pink. Due to its shape, the Pieris is also called shade bell. But Pieris is not only visually appealing.
Is the Pieris bee friendly? Yes, insects also enjoy the decorative plant, which provides abundant nectar in the spring. It is readily used as a bee pasture by native insects.
The most beautiful varieties
In our latitudes can grow two species of Pieris. Breeding also gave rise to some varieties, especially different sizes. We present the most beautiful here.
- Pieris japonica: Japanese pieris has a loose growth habit and forms white flowers. Through breeding, this species has given rise to many varieties of Pieris. If it is planted in a container, its growth is somewhat limited and it remains smaller. In the bed it grows about 2 – 3 metres high and as wide.
- Pieris floribunda: American pieris, or multiflora pieris, remains somewhat smaller than Japanese pieris, with a maximum height of 2 metres. It also blooms white, is densely branched and can be kept in a container.
- Pieris japonica ‘Carnaval’: This variety develops white flowers and has green foliage that is creamy white at the edges. Growth height: 80 – 100 cm.
- Pieris japonica ‘Little Heath’: Here, too, the foliage is tinged green and edged with white. Newly sprouting leaves are reddish and give the plant an interesting appearance. The flower colour is white. Growth height: 120 – 160 cm.
- Pieris japonica ‘Valley Valentine’: The flowers are red in this variety and appear a little earlier than the other varieties from mid-March. Growth height: 80 – 150 cm.
- Pieris japonica ‘Forest Flame’: Here the name says it all. The foliage leaves sprout bright red and become lighter with age, first pink, later light green. Since this variety is not very frost-hardy, it is suitable only for mild locations. Growth height: 70 – 80 cm.
- Pieris japonica ‘Mountain Fire’: This cultivar looks quite similar to Pieris japonica ‘Forest Flame’, but is slightly more frost hardy. However, the older foliage becomes dark green instead of light green. Growth height: 120 – 160 cm.
Planting Pieris: when, where and how
Pieris is a bog plant that requires moist, shady locations and acidic soil to grow healthily. For example, bog plants also include rhododendron, azalea (Rhododendron spec.), skimmia (Skimmia spec.), cranberry (Vaccinium vitis-ideaea) or blueberry (Vaccinium myrtillus, V. corymbosum). Pieris prefers locations in partial shade. Too much sun or shade will affect the growth and formation of flowers.
You can plant the Pieris in the flower bed or in a container. The best time for this is in the autumn. Thus, buds can still be created and you can enjoy the flowers already next spring. First, dig a planting hole, taking into account the space that will occupy the growing Pieris. This can be as much as 2 metres in width. Provide a bucket of lime-free water and soak the root ball of the shade bell. The plant prefers a rather acidic environment and does not cope with lime. Pieris is placed in the planting hole and all the gaps are filled with acidic soil. For this purpose, for example, our Plantura Organic Ericaceous Compost is recommended, which comes with an extra low pH. It is peat-reduced and was specially developed for the demands of bog plants.
- Perfect for acid-loving plants such as hydrangeas, rhododendrons, blueberry bushes, azaleas & more
- Ensures all-round healthy plants with lush blooms and aromatic berries
- Peat-reduced & organic soil: CO2-saving composition
Tip: Due to its dense growth, evergreen Pieris is perfect as a hedge. The distance between plants should be about 50 cm depending on the variety. The hedge should also be in a semi-shaded position.
Caring for Pieris
Caring for Pieris is quite unproblematic. Above all, it is important to have an adequate water supply. Because Pieris is toxic, it is best to wear gloves when pruning or replanting.
Pruning, watering and fertilising
Pruning Pieris allows for longer-lasting blooms and bushy growth. Always remove the wilted flowers above the next pair of leaves, so that new flowers can form here again. After flowering, dead or unsightly branches should also be cut off. If a shoot is too long, you can cut it off above a thickening called an eye. This will give you a uniform appearance.
When watering, the most important thing is the water. This should be lime-free, so ideally use rainwater or stale tap water. With it, you should water regularly, but only enough to avoid waterlogging. If you keep the Pieris in a pot, you can remove the excess water and create a drainage layer on the bottom of the pot.
Many nutrients do not require shade bells. Nevertheless, you should occasionally fertilise potted plants in particular so that flowers and foliage continue to grow luxuriantly. For Pieris in pots is suitable, for example, our Plantura Hydrangea Food, which contains all the essential nutrients and also has an acidifying effect. It is best to use the fertiliser when planting, repotting and maintenance fertilisation, so that the Pieris always feels good. For plants in the bed, it is enough to spread some leaf or needle litter on the ground around the plant. This mulch layer returns nutrients to the soil and also helps with freezing temperatures.
Pieris withered: what to do?
The fact that the Pieris withered is quite normal with age and size. Inside the bush less leaves and flowers are formed and the Pieris looks bare. Pruning can then be useful. Pruning is best done after flowering in early summer. Cut the bare branches at the base and shorten the remaining shoots 1 to 2 cm above the next flower. The shade bell will now resprout.
- For beautiful hydrangeas with lush blooms in pots & flower beds
- Prevents common deficiency symptoms & supports healthy plant growth
- Long-lasting fertiliser that is free from animal products - child & pet friendly
Yellow leaves on Pieris: what should you do?
Pieris can also attract pests or diseases. This then often manifests itself in discolouration of the foliage. If the Pieris gets yellow leaves, it may be due to the following reasons:
- Root rot: is mainly caused by waterlogging. This occurs when excess water cannot drain away. Reduce watering and, especially for container plants, provide water drainage, such as through a drainage layer.
- Net bug (Stephanitis): an infestation is initially manifested by a discolouration of the leaves in spots only. Here the bugs suck the leaves. Later, they turn completely yellow. Larvae and eggs are found mainly on the underside of leaves. If you notice an infestation, remove all infected leaves immediately, preferably by April.
- Lime chlorosis: Often yellow leaves are also a sign of lime chlorosis, as Pieris are very sensitive to it. Make sure that the Pieris is in acidic soil and no lime is added via fertilizer.
- Nutrient deficiency: Iron, magnesium or nitrogen deficiency can also cause discolouration of the leaves. Iron deficiency is also caused, among other things, by lime or an excessively high soil pH, as this inhibits iron absorption. Here, too, the right substrate and fertiliser is crucial. Repot the Pieris if necessary and plant it in a pot with acidic soil.
If you want to propagate Pieris, you can use both cuttings and cuttings.
For propagation by cuttings is best to use the time after flowering. This is also the best time for pruning. You can then use the cut material for propagation of cuttings.
- Use shoots that are not yet completely woody, but are already beginning to turn brown.
- Cut these shoots off at an angle with a sharp cutting tool or simply break them off. More roots can be formed on a larger cut or break-off area. The cutting should be about 8 cm long.
- Remove the tip and cut larger leaves in half. The base is injured with a cut of 1 – 2 cm to stimulate root formation.
- In addition, since Pieris cuttings are difficult to form roots, rooting hormones should be used: Roll the cuttings base in it.
- Fill a container with loose growing soil, such as our Plantura Organic Herb & Seedling Compost. In order for the young plants to grow enough roots, our organic soil is extra with a lower amount of nutrients. This stimulates the plants to develop their roots vigorously. Mix the substrate with even more sand or perlite, because the soil for Pieris must be particularly well drained.
- Insert the shoots halfway into the substrate, and then moisten it until saturation.
- For rooting to occur, the temperature should be between 12 and 15 °C.
- Keep the soil moist without waterlogging until new leaves have grown. This can take between 6 and 8 weeks.
- Now you can repot the plantlets in acidic soil.
Propagation via cuttings is best done in the spring. To do this, dig a small trough in the soil next to the mother plant. It should be about 15 cm deep. If the substrate is not already acidic at this point, add a little acidic soil to the hole to improve conditions for the sink. Find an annual or biennial shoot on the Pieris mother plant. This shoot is bent down from the mother plant and fixed with soil in the adjacent trough. The tip of the shoot should protrude from the ground about 30 cm. Now weigh the whole thing down with stones or wire so that the shoot remains securely in the ground. The substrate must be kept moist at all times until autumn, so that the shoot takes root and can be separated. Now the plant, which was formed from the sink, can be transplanted.
- Perfect for herbs as well as sowing, propagating & transplanting
- For aromatic herbs & healthy seedlings with strong roots
- Peat-free & organic soil: CO2-saving composition
Is Pieris hardy?
Pieris, with the exception of the variety ‘Forest Flame’, is well hardy and does not require frost protection. However, frost-drying problems can occasionally occur when the shallow-rooted Pieris can no longer absorb water from the frozen ground. Therefore, if the Pieris is not in a semi-shaded spot anyway, you can shade the plant in the winter so that less water is released through transpiration. Watering more, on the contrary, will not help the plant, because the water in the soil would freeze again.
Potted plants should be protected in the root area with a jute bag, because the substrate in the pot freezes through faster.
Are Pieris poisonous?
Since Pieris is poisonous, it should not be consumed in any case. Otherwise, gastrointestinal discomfort or even respiratory distress may occur in larger quantities. Even skin contact with oleander sap can cause irritation. Therefore, to be on the safe side, wear gloves when handling the shade bell. The bluebell is also poisonous to pets.
Another bog plant that can stand well with Pieris is azalea. We show how to plant and overwinter azalea.