Editor’s Choice: Fothergilla

Meet dwarf Fothergilla, Fothergilla gardenii, an attractive three-season deciduous shrub that has been a stalwart performer in my garden for years. From the onset of spring through the conclusion of fall, she never disappoints.

In early April the white, bottle-brush blooms appear with honey-like fragrance, and typically last for a couple of weeks. Then are replaced by beautifully textured green to blue-green foliage.

Then fall brings a prize-winning display. During November, the frost-tolerant foliage takes on golden-yellows, bright oranges or intense reds, or combinations of all. When other fall-foliage plants have finished, fiery Fothergilla perseveres in the garden.

Some say there’s fourth season interest in winter when you can see the zigzag type of branching. In my opinion, it is unremarkable.
I’ve read that weather conditions greatly influence the autumn coloration each year, with the amount of sunlight, rainfall and temperatures all playing a role. For mine planted in full sun/partial shade and have been established for well over 10 years, the results have been consistently positive.

She’s a slow-growing rounded shrub that will reach 3 to 4 feet tall, spreading wider if allowed. Fothergilla performs well in moist, acidic, organically rich, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Plants appreciate some afternoon shade especially in hot, dry summers.
Follow a regular watering schedule during the first growing season to establish a deep, extensive root system. Then reduce once established. If we’re in an extreme heat situation, weekly watering or more often is necessary.

Use Fothergilla in the landscape as a compact specimen or accent plant. Impressive when grown in groups or massed. Shrub borders, foundations, cottage gardens, open woodland areas or native plant areas gives this little work horse plenty of utility options.

Looking for a low maintenance shrub? Fothergilla is one of the best. She stays true to her dwarf label. Pruning isn’t required, except for the occasional sucker growth that appears at the base. However, I have been known to do a little selective pruning to bring branching back into shape.

Any troubles with pests? Nope. There don’t seem to be serious insect or disease problems. Added bonus: deer resistant.

If you need just one more reason to consider dwarf Fothergilla for your landscape, consider this: it’s a Plant of Merit. Easy to grow and maintain; not known to be invasive in our area; resistant or tolerant to diseases and insects; has outstanding ornamental value; and reasonably available to purchase. For more details about Plants of Merit, go to missouribotanicalgarden.org.

High praise for a favorite shrub in my landscape. She’s a sweet, sturdy one that should be included in your garden too.
There’s still plenty of time to plant before winter arrives. Check with the professionals at your local nursery or garden center for healthy plant selection.

To view images of fothergilla, visit the online version of the October 2016 issue at KCGMAG.com.

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