Leucothoe is one of the rare plants that really loves the shade and is beautiful growing with azaleas, rhododendrons, and other ericaceous plants with its graceful arching stems, leathery shiny dark green foliage, and delicate lily-of-the-valley shaped flowers. New growth is often tinged with red and some cultivars feature variegated foliage with cream and pink. Unfortunately, leucothoe does not like the heat and in the wild is found in cool, shady ravines along mountain streams of North America. If you want to grow leucothoe and live in a warm climate try pipestem, Leucothoe populifolia (also known as Agarista populifolia), that is more heat tolerant and grows well in zones 7-9.
Type: Evergreen shrub.
Outstanding Feature: Arching stems; glossy foliage; fragrant bell shaped flowers.
Growth Rate: Slow.
Bloom: Small fragrant white bell-shaped flowers resembling lily-of-the-valley are borne on arching stems in spring.
Foliage: Medium texture; shiny, leathery, dark green oval leaves 2-5” long; sometimes tinged with red or pink; some cultivars with cream variegation.
Size: 3-6’ H x 3-6’ W.
Light: Deep to partial shade; tolerates more sun if soil kept evenly moist.
Soil: Deep, organic, moist, well drained, acid.
Hardiness: Zones 4-6.
Care: Protect from winter winds and drying out; prune to the ground after flowering in spring to rejuvenate.
Pests and Diseases: Leaf spot in poorly drained soils.
Propagation: seed; cuttings in June or winter (use hormone).
Companions: hosta, impatients, columbine, and woodland plants.
‘Rainbow’ (mottled pink and cream leaves)