How to Grow Andromeda – Pieris

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Pieris — sometimes call Andromeda–is an evergreen shrub grown for both its foliage and flowers. New spring leaf growth is bright-colored (pink to red or bronze) and then matures to a glossy dark green. Clusters of small, usually white, urn-shaped flowers appear in early spring. Flower buds for the following spring appear in autumn as greenish-pink beads; they begin to open in late winter.

Pieris is a good companion for rhododendrons and azaleas; they all share the same cultural needs–well-drained but moisture-retentive acid soil and cool to moderate summers. They do not thrive in hot, dry conditions.

Pieris is a must for Oriental and woodland gardens. Its year-round features make it a good choice for entryways and containers close to the house.

Pieris is a member of the heath family. There are 7 species in the genus. Some are native to the Himalayas and East Asia and some are native to North America.

Summer leaves of Japanese Pieris 'Little Heath'
Summer leaves of Japanese Pieris ‘Little Heath’

Get to know Pieris 

  • Plant type: Evergreen shrub. 
  • Growing zones and range: Zones 4 to 9 depending on the variety 
  • Hardiness: Hardy to Zone 4
  • Height and width:  3 to 12 feet (1-3.6m) tall and 3 to 10 feet (1-3m) wide depending on the variety
  • Foliage: Whorls of leathers, narrowly oval colorful leaves; the fissured bark is attractive when exposed to older specimens.  
  • Flowers: Clusters of small, urn-shaped flowers, and drooping tassels of beadlike buds that last from midsummer to the next spring’s flowering.  
  • Bloom time: Early spring.  
  • Uses: Year-round in gardens. Splendid in containers, in Oriental and woodland gardens, in entryways where year-round good looks are essential.  
  • Garden companions: Variegated Japanese Pieris with purple-leaved barberry (Berberis thunbergia f. atropurpurea), rhododendrons, and azaleas. 
  • Common name: Andromeda 
  • Botanical name: Pieris
  • Family name: Ericaceae
  • Origin: Forest in the Himalayas, East Asia, also North America

Where to plant Pieris 

  • Plant Pieris in full sun to light shade.  
  • Plant Pieris in well-drained, fertile, acidic soil, amended with peat moss or other organic matter for moisture retention and excellent drainage. 
  • Protect Pieris from strong wind.   
Pieris japonica
Pieris japonica

When to plant Pieris 

  • Set container-grown Pieris in the garden in spring or autumn.
  • Plant Pieris seeds of seed as soon as it’s ripe.  

Planting and spacing Pieris 

  • Space Pieris 3 to 10 feet (1-3m) apart depending on the variety.
  • Plant Pieris in masses, interplanted with rhododendrons and azaleas, or, if compact, against a wall.  
  • Pieris seeds need light and mist to germinate. 

How to water and feed Pieris 

  • Give Pieris regular water. 
  • Fertilize Pieris with an all-purpose organic fertilizer in spring.
Pieris japonica
Pieris japonica

How to care for Pieris 

  • Pieris doesn’t require trimming but can be trimmed lightly after flowering to remove seedpods.  

Pieris pests and diseases 

  • Pieris can develop dieback, canker, and rot. 
  • Pieris can be attacked by lace bugs and nematodes.  
  • Pieris leaves and nectar are poisonous if ingested 

Pieris propagation 

  • Sow seeds in a cold frame in spring or autumn.
  • Take Pieris softwood cuttings in early summer. 
  • Pieris cuttings root readily. 
  • Layer Pieris in spring.   
Japanese andromeda, Pieris japonica 'Mountain Fire'
Japanese andromeda, Pieris japonica ‘Mountain Fire’

Pieris varieties to grow 

  • Pieris japonica, Japanese Pieris, sometimes called lily-of-the-valley bush, has drooping clusters of small, waxy, white fragrant flowers, to 6 inches (15.2cm) long; grows 9-12 feet (2.7-3.7m) tall, spreading 6-8 feet (1.8-2.4m) wide, and produces oblong or lance-shaped leaves that emerge bronze or reddish. Among its many cultivars are: ‘Christmas Cheer’, with pink flowers; ‘Daisen’, with red flowers; ‘Variegata’ has green leaves edged with white; ‘Little Heath’ grows only 2 feet (.6m) tall, with white-edged leaves that are pink when new. Zones 5 to 8. 
  • P. floribunda, Mountain Pieris (sometimes called mountain fetterbush or mountain Andromeda): like other members of this genus, is closely related to rhododendrons; native to the southeastern United States; new leaves are often pinkish or reddish in early spring, later turning dark green, and it has upright-growing clusters of small, pink or white fragrant flowers; resists the lace bug that often plagues Asian forms but doesn’t like heat and will develop problems where drainage is poor; grows to 6 feet (1.8m) tall and wide. Zones 5 to 8.  
  • P. formosa has bronze-red leaves when young and nodding white flower clusters; grows to 15 feet (4.6m) tall. Zones 7 to 9.  
  • P. forestii, Chinese Pieris: dense, broad grower reaches 10 feet (3m) tall., with greater spread; polished leaves to 6 inches (15.2cm) long; large, drooping flower clusters; new growth ranges from brilliant scarlet (in best forms) to pale salmon pink; try to purchase this plant when plants are producing new growth to get good color; the best selections are sometimes offered as ‘Bright Red’; good espalier in shaded locations.  
  • ‘Forest Flame’, a hybrid, is large, growing to 12 feet (3.7m) tall and spreading 6-8 feet (1.8-2.4m). Zones 6 to 9.  
  • ‘Brouwer’s Beauty’, a hybrid of P. japonica and P. floribunda, growing 6 feet (1.8m) tall and wide, with yellow-green new foliage and mahogany flower buds. Zones 5 to 8.  

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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