The secret’s out – plant breeders have perfected Japanese pieris in the compact variety Mountain Snow™ Pieris. This petite shrub packs pest resistance and improved heat tolerance in a beautiful package – complete with showy cascades of white buds summer to winter that burst into bloom each spring. There’s a lot to love about this dazzling plant, from its evergreen foliage and cold hardiness to its enhancement of the shade garden. Select one (or many) for your landscape and follow these five simple steps to ensure your showstopper thrives season after season.
- Know your soils. Mountain Snow™ Pieris belongs to the plant family Ericaceae along with rhododendrons and azaleas. Like its cousins, it requires acidic soil to flourish and may suffer nutrient deficiencies in alkaline soil. Annual soil testing is the best way to monitor soil pH. Apply soil amendments and acid fertilizers as needed to maintain soil pH between 5 and 6.
- Apply organic material. Mountain Snow™ Pieris grows best in soils enriched with organic matter. Organic matter breaks down rapidly in hot climates. Replenish organic matter each season by mixing compost or well-rotted manure into the soil, taking care not to disturb the shallow roots.
- Maintain even moisture. Mountain Snow™ Pieris is sensitive to excessively dry or wet soils. In arid soils, the shallow roots may dry out quickly. Water plants deeply and apply a layer of pine needle or other organic mulch to maintain even soil moisture. Root disease commonly occurs when it is planted in poorly drained soil. Consider planting the shrub in a raised bed if drainage is a problem.
- Fertilize as needed. When soil pH is properly managed, Mountain Snow™ Pieris requires very little feeding. However, like any plant, the shrub will use nitrogen during active growth phases. Keep plants vigorous with an annual application of nitrogen before flowering in late winter (mid-February) or just after flowering in early spring (mid-May). Spread fertilizer evenly beneath the shrub and water it into the soil.
- Deadhead if desired. Mountain Snow™ Pieris is a no-fuss plant and requires very little pruning other than the occasional removal of dead or broken limbs. While it is not 100 percent necessary, deadheading – or the removal of spent flowers – may be beneficial to plant growth and development. Fading flowers enclose tiny developing seeds that draw upon a plant’s energy resources. Removing the spent flowers diverts that energy into new root and shoot growth. Deadheading also cleans up Mountain Snow™ Pieris so we may focus our attention on its lovely bronze-colored new growth.
Above all, healthy plants are the secret to low-maintenance gardening. When given the right conditions and care, plants are more resilient and vigorous – more easily tolerating pest pressure and extreme weather. A little TLC goes a long way toward a beautiful garden!