Leucothoe fontanesiana – Leucothoe fontanesiana – Garden plants – Leucothoe fontanesiana – Shrubs

The Leucothoe fontanesiana is a small to medium sized evergreen shrub native to North America; to this genus belong some evergreen or deciduous shrubs, widespread in Asia and North America. It has a sloping or creeping habit and produces long, woody stems, with few branches, which give the plant a disorderly appearance; the foliage is oval or lanceolate, dark green in colour, leathery and slightly thick.

During the winter months the foliage takes on a reddish, very decorative colour.

In spring, from the lower part of the branches hang numerous clusters of small bell-shaped flowers, white or pink in colour, delicately perfumed. There are numerous cultivars, with a particularly compact appearance, or with coloured leaves.

The most common cultivar is L. f. “Rainbow”, with dark green foliage, streaked with yellow and pink. To maintain a compact shape, it is advisable to prune the plant after flowering, removing about one third of the length of the branches.


La Leucothoe

The leucothoe is a shrub that has become popular and widespread especially in recent years. Its strengths have been its bearing, its ability to adapt to the areas of shade, but, above all, the beautiful color of the foliage that gives brightness and a pleasant atmosphere to the garden at all times of the year.

In fact, it is persistent in almost all cultivars and its nuances range from intense green, during the summer, to copper or bronze, from November until the awakening of vegetation.

This acidophilic can be used in small or large green spaces, but it has no difficulty in adapting to life in containers, on balconies and terraces.

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leucothoeThe Leucothoe fontanesiana plants are most successfully cultivated in shady or semi-shady positions, however protected from the sun’s rays in areas with a very hot summer climate. However, they can easily adapt to different environments, with sub-optimal characteristics. They are a variety of plants rather resistant and do not fear the cold, so they can be grown even in areas where the winter temperatures are quite cold.

The ideal location for the leucothoe is undoubtedly the half-shade, perhaps with maximum light during the morning hours. In this way the plant will grow quite vigorously, but the sun will not fade before the beautiful shades of its foliage. In addition, in these conditions you can also enjoy an abundant flowering production.

Winds, however, are the most fearsome enemies, especially the icy ones at the end of winter. They can damage the buds in formation and compromise the growth of the year. To avoid this sensitivity is advisable to choose a location sheltered by a wall or surround the leucothoe with other essences.

In pots the same rules apply, even if an even more sheltered position, both towards the sun and the frost, is recommended, if we live in an area where the climate is extremely hot in summer or cold in winter.


Family, genus, species

 Ericaceae, gen.

Leucothoe, about 50 species

Type of plant, bearing

 Shrub, erect and enlarged

Maximum height-width



 Generally persistent




 Medium to very rustic

Water requirements



 Half shade, shade


 Land of forest, peat, medium rich



Soil pH

 Sub-acid to acid



Hedge, flowerbed, rock garden, pot


 Cuttings, offshoots, layering


leucothoe walteri rainbow As for the need to provide sufficient water, from March to September it is advisable to water the plants of Leucothoe fontanesiana plants every 10-15 days, especially in case of prolonged drought, always waiting for the soil to be dry between one watering and the other, to avoid the formation of waterlogging that would compromise the health of the plant. Avoid watering during the cold months.

During the growing season, provide fertiliser for flowering plants every 20-30 days, or use organic fertiliser towards the end of winter.

Let’s make sure that the area is never too dry. To facilitate the vegetative recovery and a fast development it is best to follow the plant for at least two years from the time of planting, irrigating at least once a week in the absence of rain. Afterwards, especially in the North, we will intervene only in case of prolonged drought during the summer season. In the southern regions and in pots, however, you should always be careful in this respect.

Help can come from thick mulching, which prevents excessive evaporation.


leucotoe axillaris The Leucothoe fontanesiana shrubs prefer soils with acidic pH, it is therefore good to use a specific soil for acidophilic plants, mixed with little organic matter and little sand, to increase the drainage. It is possible to grow these shrubs in pots, taking care to repot them every year, so as to provide them with a soil rich in nutrients.

The leucothoe must grow in soil from acid to subacid. It is therefore important to provide it with a substrate with these characteristics, composed mostly of soil leaves, woodland and peat to which you can add a little compost or floury manure well decomposed and about 1/3 of field soil. Let’s make sure that the mixture obtained is able to drain the water efficiently, but also to stay fresh for a long time.

If our substrate is silty or clayey, and therefore not draining, we can always extract it in depth and replace it with a product purchased more suitable (for acidophilic) and amalgamated as explained above.

To avoid that over time the pH and the texture of the soil change, we can insert in the hole a large cement pot drilled on the bottom (which will create an area more isolated from the context). It may also be useful to regularly spread iron sulphate, needles and conifer bark.

Soil in pots

In pots it is good to opt for a container from medium to large, in accordance also with the final size that will reach the shrub. It is essential to prepare a thick draining layer based on gravel or expanded clay. As a substrate we use also here a soil for acidophilic with which we will have mixed a bit of mature manure and field soil. Let’s mulch the surface with pine bark.


leucothoe piante The multiplication of this kind of plants takes place by seed or by cutting; the cuttings are done using semi-woody stems, in summer.

For sowing it is advisable to proceed with the placement of the seeds in special containers that will be kept sheltered to allow the plant to acquire the necessary strength, before being transplanted.

Pests and diseases

Leucothoe fontanesianaLeucothoe fontanesiana plants are resistant and rather rustic and, in general, do not suffer from the attack of parasites or diseases. They can be affected by the presence of water stagnation in the soil, which can cause the onset of root rot or moulds that affect their health. For this reason, it is advisable to plant in well drained soil and check that it is dry before proceeding with a new watering.

It is a very healthy plant and rarely is sick. The only annoyances can come from an asphyxiated and poorly draining soil that can cause root rot and stunted growth.

Features Leucothoe

The genus Leucothoe is composed of about fifty species belonging to the family Ericaceae. They are generally upright shrubs, up to 5 metres high and 3 metres wide, coming from wooded, mountainous and semi-mountainous habitats in North America, Japan and the Himalayan area.

Rather resistant to cold, they have become among the major players in shady areas, particularly when the soil is naturally subacid to acid.

Their leaves are oblong, pointed and persistent; in the vegetative period they appear of a nice medium green, before declining in warmer shades, at the arrival of the winter. Very characteristic are also the new jets, which keep for long time colours from the red to the violet purple.

The hybridizers immediately saw these characteristics as great potential and tried, through successive crossings, to obtain specimens that maintained the beautiful nuances even in the summer.

Leucothoe, however, can also offer a beautiful spring flowering, similar in shape to that of heather: rich clusters of white bells, capable of emanating a pleasant scent.

Uses Leucothe

Leucothoe fontanesiana The cultivars on the market are quite compact: the branches can be erect, and elegantly arched, or grow almost horizontally, becoming valuable soil covers.

They can be part of compositions of various kinds, even inside flowerbeds or mixed borders in the foreground or second floor. The more compact and low ones can be used also in the rocky gardens, in combination with other mountain or foothill essences.

However, they give their best when inserted in shaded areas in proximity to other acidophilic ones, such as heather, rhododendrons, azaleas, Japanese maples, pieris, camellias, cornus florida with which, usually, they also form a nice contrast in virtue of the different textures and colours of the foliage.

Thanks to the large canopy volume and rather slow growth, which reduces maintenance to a minimum, they are also ideal potters, to be used to embellish terraces and hallways.

Ideal planting period

The ideal period for planting is almost everywhere in late spring, when the frosts are definitely over and the soil is well workable. In the south and on the coasts, on the contrary, we can proceed also in autumn, provided that the climate is mild, obtaining a plant already partially free when the vegetative awakening takes place.

Rusticity and mulching

Leucothoe is rather rustic, but fears cold winds at the end of winter. In addition to placing it in a sheltered area we can also protect it with special fabric, especially in the north or if it is in a pot, in this case also insulating externally to prevent it from freezing the ground completely. A thick mulch is always a good help.

Cultivation of Leucothoe

leucothoe fontanesiana Fertilization

In spring it is useful to spread granular fertiliser for acidophilic plants in the area occupied by the canopy, following the manufacturer’s instructions.


L In this respect, human intervention is almost always superfluous. The shrub, in fact, naturally tends to take on a graceful, regular and compact shape. Very mature plants may need to be rejuvenated at the end of the winter, which will consist of eliminating about 1/3 of the branches, especially the older or weakened ones.


due to the rather slow growth, repotting can be carried out every 4 years or so, in spring


In order to obtain new plants that maintain the peculiar characteristics of the cultivar, it is good to proceed by cutting, offshoot or layering, to be done all in summer.

The segments, for the cutting, of about 25 cm, must be semilignified. We dirty the base with a special phytohormone and put it in a light soil, composed of peat and sand (or perlite). The ideal environment must be sheltered from the winds, warm and shady. Rooting will take place by autumn and we can plant the following spring.

Leucothoe fontanesiana: Variety of Leucothoe

The varieties employed for their ornamental value are almost all cultivars or hybrids, developed with the purpose of exalting the beautiful colouration of the leaves, which can go from the red, to the pink, to the purple up to almost the violet.







Other features

 Leucothoe axillaris

 Species type

 Bunches of white flowers in spring, perfumed

 2 m

 2 m

 Dark green, narrow, young-purple-brown.

 Rare in cultivation

 Curly Red;


 0,8 m

 1,5 m

 Bright, shiny green, curled.

The new jets are red

 Suitable as a floor cover or in large pots

 Leucothoe davisiae

 Species type

 White flowers in May, in large clusters

 1 m

 1,5 m

 From the United States, rare in cultivation

 Leucothoe Fountain

 & Scarletta&n;, sin.

& Zeblid&n;

 Bunches of white flowers in spring, perfumed

 2 m

 3 m

 Red, purplish, bronze in winter

 Wonderful colours, to be placed in the area in view in winter.

 Leucothoe walteri


 Fiori bianchi profumati

 1,5 m

 1,5 m

 The belief that giovani rosa with giovani rosa with macchi giyo, poi restanzo screziata nel crema

 Dona luminosità ad una wife ombrosa

 Royal Rubis Royal Rubis;

 Fiori bianchi profumati

 0,6 m

 1 m

 Porpora ramato, poi verde scuro

 Adatto a vasi e giardino roccioso

 “Zebonard”, “Zebonard”, “Zebonard”, “Zebonard”, “Zebonard”, “Zebonard”, “Zebonard”, “Zebonard”;

 Fiori bianchi profumati

 1,5 m

 3 m

 Rosso violaceo, poi cremisi, poi verde

 Coprisuolo o piccola siepe

Mimosa - Acacia dealbata

Corbezzolo - Arbutus

Photinia x fraseri