The pieris (once grouped in the genus Andromeda) are evergreen shrubs, of medium or small size, spread mainly in the mountainous areas of central and eastern Asia; some botanical species are present also in the American continent, but in the European nurseries are found mainly hybrids and species originating in Asia, in particular Pieris japonica and its hybrids.
It has a nice dark green foliage, oval lanceolate, leathery, spirally arranged; the leaves of the shoots are in many species in contrasting colour, in particular red or purple, and become green with the passing of the days. The flowers are grouped in terminal and pendulous racemes, have tiny dimensions and are shaped like a bell, white in colour; they typically bloom in late winter or early spring.
The floral buds are prepared by the plants already during the summer, and therefore remain on the plant for several weeks before blossoming, often remaining light green. There are dozens of hybrids, with pink flowers or with dark veins, or with young leaves tinged with fire red. The flowers are followed by tiny fruits, semi-woody capsules containing the seeds, usually fertile.
In addition to these, there are also dwarf varieties; a pieris adult, that is some years old, can easily reach the two or three metres of height; the dwarf varieties, on the contrary, remain under the metre, about.
Species of pieris
It is one of the most common species as an ornamental plant, and also one of which there are more hybrid varieties; the pieris japonica, as the name suggests, is originally from Japan and China. These pieris are medium sized, very slow growing shrubs, which keep dense and dense even without pruning of any kind; the foliage is dark green, in the buds it is bronze.
The varieties typically have very conspicuous bud foliage, cherry red, orange, or even intense yellow, which makes the shrubs decidedly very decorative. The flowers are white, blooming in early summer, in long hanging racemes, often covering in large quantities the entire shrub.
- The pieris are a genus which counts about ten species, in the garden is cultivated only the Pieris japonica, species native to Japan and China. It is a medium sized shrub, which can be used as a plant for the…
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- Evergreen tree or shrub native to Ireland and countries bordering the Mediterranean, which can reach 9-10 meters high, but which most commonly remains around the size of a tree or shrub.
Species native to the United States, it has look and appearance decidedly less compact than the Japanese cuisine; the stems are thin, well ramified, and carry oval leaves, of medium green colour, evergreen, bigger and paler than those of pieris japonica, and without the typical contrasting colouration of the buds. The flowers bloom at the apex of the stems, in erect panicles, which, therefore, showily come out from the whole of the shrub, are very perfumed.
Very robust and vigorous plant, it does not show the elegant and delicate appearance of other pieris, more common in cultivation.
Plant diffused in the wild in central Asia, in the Himalayan zones; it has slightly bigger dimensions than pieris japonica, especially for what the leaves are concerned, which, even if keeping a similar shape, are decidedly bigger, with a length which may exceed the 15 sc; the general appearance of the shrub is very similar, with rounded shape, thick ramifications and slow growth.
The young spring leaves of Pieris formosa are of a showy cherry colour, which changes to orange and yellow before arriving at the true de typical of mature leaves. The flowers are white, bell-shaped, delicately perfumed, and bloom in spring, when the shrub produces the most showy foliage.
Cultivating the pieris
The pieris belong to the family of the ericaceae, they are therefore acidophilic plants, which need fresh soil with acidic pH, free of limestone; they are therefore cultivated in special soil, avoiding watering them with strongly calcareous water.
In areas with alkaline soil it is usually preferable to grow pieris in pots, so as to better control the soil around the roots, or prepare a large planting hole, which should be filled with peat and soil for acidophilic plants; if we live in an area with strongly calcareous water, the soil around the pieris will have to be replaced periodically, or we risk that, with the passing of the years, it becomes too poor in bioavailable iron, causing the ferric chlorosis, that is, an irreparable yellowing of the foliage.
The pieris are undergrowth plants, used in nature to live in areas with cold winter and cool summers; in Italy they are found in semi-shaded flowerbeds, sheltered from direct sunlight during the hottest hours of the day. They can bear the direct sun, but in summer it would cause excessively high temperatures and a very dry air.
The pieris can bear short dry periods, but prefer a cool and humid climate, so let’s water them regularly, from March to September, avoiding leaving the soil dry for long periods of time; let’s also avoid excesses, however, and therefore let’s expect the soil to be dry before watering again, and let’s guarantee our plants a fertile, deep and very well drained soil, so that the excess water can slip away quickly.
During the whole vegetative period we supply a flowering fertilizer for acidophilic plants, every 12-15 days; we can use the same fertilizer we supply to azaleas or hydrangeas.
These plants are very decorative, without much need, the development is in fact very slow, and therefore it is not usually necessary to prune the pieris; if it really should be necessary, let’s shorten the racemes of wilted flowers, and remember to avoid autumn pruning, as they would certainly remove most of the future flowers.
Pests and diseases
The pieris are not very attacked by animal parasites, because aphids and cochineals do not like the cool and humid climate in which the plant is grown, and the same applies to loved ones, so if these insects should attack our pieris, it means that even the plant is not well in health, as it is grown in a place too hot and dry or without ventilation.
More typically, pieris suffer from iron chlorosis, a disease that attacks acidophilic plants, when they are not able to absorb iron in the soil and to synthesize chlorophyll; for this reason the leaves tend to become progressively yellow, and the plant decays conspicuously. Against iron chlorosis, the best cure consists in the prevention, which is done by cultivating the plants in soil at acid pH, or by periodically supplying a greening fertilizer.
Another problem often found in pieris is due to an excessively heavy and always laminated soil, which favours the development of rottenness, which can irreparably ruin the root system.
Pieris japonica: Multiply the pieris
The pieris produce a lot of flowers, followed by small fruits containing the fertile seeds; these seeds can be picked up and sown immediately, when still “fresh”; they are sown in sowing trays filled with peat and sand in equal parts, which are to be kept humid and in a cool and sheltered place from the direct sunlight.
Usually, the germination is not sure, therefore we tend to sow a great quantity of seeds, immediately thinning out the plants which come out, in order to keep only the most vigorous and big ones. If we have taken the seeds from a pieris of a hybrid variety, we will not necessarily get young plants identical to the mother plant.
For this reason, we usually prefer to propagate the pieris by cutting, in late spring or in summer, taking the cuttings from the branches not carrying flowers; the cuttings must be at least 6-10 cm long, and are to be stripped of most of the leaves, especially in the lower part; immerse themselves in the rooting hormone, and then bury themselves in a compound of peat and sand, which will have to be kept humid for long time, in a semi-shady place, till when the cuttings have not started to germinate; at this point, we shall move them in single containers, which will have to be tried in a sheltered place.
Even if the pieris are plants very resistant to the cold, which can bear temperatures close to -15°C, it would be better to keep the young seedlings from seed and from cutting in a sheltered place for their first winter, in cold greenhouse or on terrace. A shelf leaning against the walls of the house and not excessively exposed to the sun and the bad weather can be sufficient to preserve the tiny plants without ruining them.
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visits : japonica