Pieris japonica 'Valley Valentine'

Primavera de Pieris!

Viva la Spring! We made it, folks. It might not feel like it, what with the evening and early morning temperatures dipping into the 20’s and 30’s, but before we know it our long-johns and insulated jackets will be replaced with loose, breathable linens and our skin will be kissed (or burnt to a spectacular crimson if you’re like me) by the summer sun. One of the first indications that spring is in fact underway is the emergence of the pendulous, tiny bell-shaped flowers that decorate the apexes of Pieris japonica’s evergreen branches, emitting a delicate and pleasant fragrance as they waver gently in chilly early spring breezes. Sure, most of the time Japanese andromedas are the functional evergreen shrub that works as a hedge, specimen, foundation planting – you name it. But it’s only for several weeks of the year that we get to enjoy its lovely, lethal little blooms. So, this week, we’re plunging into Pieris.

Pieris japonica is one of those plants that’s procured a bit of a bad rap due to its ludicrously high toxicity levels found in every one of its parts. Fearmongering articles about goats, sheep, and even children passing away upon accidentally ingesting Pieris, which serve a helpful reminder for livestock owners and pet owners alike, tend to deter homeowners from incorporating “scary” plants into their landscapes for fear of an accidental poisoning. While the leaves, phloem, and even the nectar contain potentially fatal toxins andromedotoxin and grayanotoxins, research has shown that Pieris japonica is the source of what could be some potent analgesic diterpenoids. In fact, 16 different diterpenoids, conveniently dubbed Pierisjaponins, were discovered to have promising pain-relieving effects in over half of the test subjects involved in the study. Working to isolate these compounds into a useful pharmaceutical product may still be a while away, with this recent discovery having just occurred in 2020 – in the meantime, best to keep in mind that ingesting any part of these plants could result in tingling sensations and vomiting at best, or cardiac arrest and death at worst.

So long as you don’t intend on attempting any culinary endeavors with your Pieris, incorporating it as an ornamental addition to the garden or landscape can make quite the statement. Throughout the year, persistent floral or fruiting structures remain on the plant in tandem with the evergreen foliage, giving the shrubs a distinctive identifying feature that differentiate it from easily-confused alternatives. Its year-round showiness makes Japanese andromeda a candidate for dazzling as a specimen in the winter garden, as an evergreen component in the shady woodland garden, or within the traditional Japanese garden as a bonsai-like shrub. Depending on the particular palette you desire, there is seemingly a Pieris japonica for everyone. Below is a helpful list of our Pieris japonica selections, available now:

Pieris japonica ‘Cavatine’ – late-blooming white flowers; medium to dark green foliage

Pieris japonica ‘Dorothy Wycoff’ – dark red buds open to pale pink flowers; dark green foliage

Pieris japonica ‘Flaming Silver’ – white flowers; variegated foliage emerging with pink margins maturing to cream

Pieris japonica ‘Katsura’ (PP15452) – rose-pink flowers, purple winter buds; orange bronze to wine-red to green new growth

Pieris japonica ‘Mountain Fire’ – white flowers; “exceptional” fire-red new growth

Pieris japonica ‘Scarlet O’Hara’ – white flowers; bright red new growth

Pieris japonica ‘Valley Rose’ – silvery pink flowers; dark green, glossy foliage

Pieris japonica ‘Valley Valentine’ – ruby red flower buds emerge to deep pink flowers; dark green, glossy foliage


https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bioorg.2020.103794 - Structurally diverse diterpenoids from Pieris japonica as potent analgesics, Bioorganic Chemistry, Volume 99, 2020, 103794

Pieris japonica | Landscape Plants | Oregon State University

[Pieris japonica pieris poisoning in 2 goats]. - Abstract - Europe PMC

Pieris japonica (Fetterbush, Japanese Andromeda, Japanese Pieris, Lily-of-the-Valley Shrub, Pieris) | North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox (ncsu.edu)

A Complete Guide to Growing Japanese Pieris | Garden Design

Pieris japonica (osu.edu)

See all our Woody Ornamentals

Pieris japonica 'Flaming Silver'