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Plant Profile: Fothergill (Fothergilla gardenii)

Fothergill (Fothergilla gardenii)

Fothergill (Fothergilla gardenii)

Soft and fuzzy always appeals to me so when my fothergills come into bloom along with the dogwoods, azaleas, and cherry trees, I can’t help but be drawn to them in spite of the fact that they are not nearly as showy as their garden companions. White “bottle brush” flowers are borne on leafless stems in spring and are followed by attractive dark green foliage which turns yellow, orange, red, and violet in the fall. The flowers emerge white with a touch of green and are fragrant, making them a wonderful addition to spring flower arrangements. The flowers have no petals and what you see are actually the stamens. The shrub itself is compact and slow-growing , forming a mound about 3-4’ tall and wide. To make things even better, this shrub tolerates a wide range of soil and light conditions and is easy to grow. What more could you ask from a plant?  

Fothergill Fall foliage

Fothergill Fall foliage

Type: Deciduous shrub.

Bloom: White apetalous, 2” long fragrant flowers in mid spring.

Size: 3’ H x 3’ W

Light: Full sun-full shade.

Soil: Well-drained, evenly moist, rich, acidic soil, but tolerates less than ideal conditions.

Fertilizer: Apply slow release fertilizer for acid loving plants in spring around the drip line making sure that it does not touch the root collar at the base of the plant

Hardiness: Zones 5-8.

Care: Thin the plant after blooming in its early years to produce an open form. Water well during periods of drought. A 3” layer of pine needle mulch will preserve moisture and improve the soil.

Pests and Diseases: None of importance; good disease resistance.

Propagation: Rooted stem cuttings June-September.

Companion plants: Azaleas, rhododendrons, loropetalum; a backdrop of evergreen shrubs will set off the flowers.

Outstanding Selections: ‘Mt Airy’ is a little larger than the species but with more flowers and better fall color. ‘Harold Epstein’ is only 2’ x 2’ but is not as colorful as the species.

Comment: The species is native to the Southeast and is related to witch hazel.

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