Leucothoe Plants: Growing | Maintenance | Care Tips


Leucothoe [Loo-KOH-thoh-ee] is a genus of evergreen flowering plants, belonging to the family Ericaceae along with Calluna vulgaris

This genus has around 50 different species, including Leucothoe Fontanesiana and Leucothoe Axillaris.

All of these species are low maintenance and produce beautiful foliage to enhance the overall beauty of the garden, particularly in winter and autumn.

Blooming Leucothoe PlantBlooming Leucothoe Plant

Leucothoe works well on dry slopes without irrigation and slopes near water. 

This plant is native to Madagascar, Asia, and the United States.

The common names of this plant include:

  • Coastal Doghobble
  • Drooping Leucothoe
  • Swamp Doglaurel
  • Fetterbush
  • Coastal Leucothoe
  • Rainbow Leucothoe
  • Mountain Doghobble
  • Scarletta Fetterbush

Leucothoe Plant Care

Size & Growth

This evergreen shrub is vase-shaped and grows about 3’ to 5’ feet tall. 

It spreads about 6’ feet or more. 

The stems of this plant are elegant and arching. 

The majority of the species start with vibrant green, bronze, or red stems, which turn into glossy or dark green as they mature.

The plant has spear-shaped or elongated leaves. 

The leaf color ranges from red, pink, pale yellow, or green, and changes to purple or bronzy during the autumn season. 

Some of the varieties also have variegated leaves.

Flowering and Fragrance

  • All the varieties of this plant produce bell-shaped, white flowers. 
  • The flower color might also be bluish in some species. 
  • These tiny flowers gradually transform into five-lobed globular fruits.  
  • The bloom time of this plant is between April and May.

Light & Temperature

This plant tolerates the full sun if there is a sufficient amount of moisture in the soil. 

Full shade to partial shade is required to develop vibrant leaf color and variegated leaves. 

The lighter spot you place this plant in, the more beautiful its color will become.

These plants are hardy to USDA Hardiness Zones 6 through 9. 

This plant is moderately hardy but requires a bit of protection during the winter season. 

Provide extra protection during periods when thawing and frosting occur regularly.

Watering and Feeding

This plant has the ability to tolerate short dryness spells. 

However, for healthy plants, you must provide it with consistent but moderate water.

Make sure the soil stays moist and ensure the soil doesn’t completely dry out between waterings. 

Keep in mind the Mountain Doghobble shouldn’t sit in standing water for an extended period.

Feed the plant with special Ericaceae fertilizer during the spring season to enhances its health and maintain the acidity of the soil.  

Soil & Transplanting

It grows optimally in well-draining and acidic soil. 

This plant is rather versatile and grows well in all types of soil, but make sure the pH level of the soil isn’t alkaline.

Grooming and Maintenance

  • Protect this plant from drying winds as it might damage the foliage. 
  • Apply a layer of organic matter or mulch all around the root area to prevent desiccation and weed. 
  • A bark layer also works well in maintaining the acidity of the soil and protecting the plant from drying out.
  • There is not much need for pruning unless there is a broken or errant stem. 
  • Enjoy new growth by taking out stems within a few inches of the soil, which will rejuvenate the old plants.

How to Propagate Leucothoe Plant

The propagation of this plant is done using half-ripe cuttings and seeds.

  • Sow the seeds in late winter in part shade inside the greenhouse. 
  • Be sure to cover the seeds lightly. 
  • Make sure the compost doesn’t dry out throughout the germination process. 
  • Once the plant is big enough to handle, take the seedlings out and plant them in separate pots.
  • Allow the plant to grow under light shade inside the greenhouse till their first winter. 
  • During late spring, transfer the plant in their permanent spot in the garden during the late spring season.

When propagating the plant using half-rip cuttings, make sure to take 2” to 4” inches of the cutting. 

  • Grow the cuttings in a frame during the summer season. 
  • Layer the plant with mulch in the fall season. 
  • Once the plant is big enough, transfer them out in the permanent position.

Leucothoe Plant Pest or Diseases

The Drooping Leucothoe is deer resistant and doesn’t experience any severe disease or pests problems. 

However, be on a lookout for scale insects, lace bugs, leaf gall, powdery mildew, tar spot, and Anthracnose spot

In a humid environment, the plant might experience a leaf spot.

Is Leucothoe Toxic or Poisonous?

This plant is toxic and might prove fatal if ingested. 

The plant also has a high flammability rating and shouldn’t be placed inside the house.

Leucothoe Plant Uses

This evergreen shrub works well as a single specimen when planted in containers. 

It also looks stunning when used with other plants in borders, woodland gardens, rock gardens, on slopes, or as a ground cover.

It may be used as an under-planting for bigger shrubs or as a foundation plant. 

The fantastic foliage of this plant looks wonderful with Checkerberry, Ling Heather, and Skimmia plants.

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