Enkianthus campanulatus

For a shrub with some pizzazz, Enkianthus offers dainty spring flowers and brilliant fall color. It's a slow-growing large shrub or small tree that produces clusters of bell-shaped flowers in spring and early summer. Flowers range from creamy white to pink to orange. The dark-green foliage turns a variety of colors in shades of burgundy, red, orange or yellow in autumn.

While Enkianthus is spectacular during the spring and fall, don't discount its winter interest, said Bill Hendricks, president of Klyn Nurseries in Perry, Ohio.

"In the winter, snow can layer on it and snow collects in the branches," he said. "But it's a plant for all seasons." Klyn Nurseries grows E. campanulatus in beds with sandy but highly amended soil and drip irrigation, Hendricks said. They're grown either as balled-and-burlapped material or potted into a 7-gallon container in a basic rhododendron mix, he said.

"I've heard some people say they've had some difficulty with them, but they're easy to grow. As long as we stick to the light, airy beds with organic material and supplemental irrigation, they grow really strong."

Enkianthus is hardy to USDA Hardiness Zone 5 and grows best in sandy, well-drained soil.

It grows 6-8 feet tall and 5-6 feet wide, although it may grow larger in warmer climates, Hendricks said. Growth habit is typically blocky and upright. It grows best in full sun or part shade.

Enkianthus is generally a clean plant and is not associated with any pests or disease.

Propagation

Hendricks started with a group of seedlings and selected specimens based on size and color. From those selections, he propagates E. campanulatus from summer softwood cuttings.

"Propagation is typically done from seed, but it's easy to do softwood cuttings too," Hendricks said. "When you grow Enkianthus from seed, you get a lot of variability in fall color."

Some cultivars

The Elisabeth C. Miller Botanical Garden in Seattle named 'Red Bells' a Great Plant Pick. It was chosen for its multiple-season interest, including the creamy-yellow flowers with red veins and fiery yellow, red and orange fall foliage.

'Albiflorus' features off-white flowers without veins and good fall color. It grows faster than other cultivars. 'Sikokianus' has bright-red stems for winter interest, and its dark-maroon flower buds open to dark, brick-red flowers with streaks of shrimp-pink.

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Specifics

Name: Enkianthus campanulatus

Description: Deciduous shrub with bell-shaped flowers in spring and brilliant foliage in fall.

Hardiness: USDA Hardiness Zones 5-8.

Propagation: Seed or softwood cuttings.

Growth habit: Typically grows 6-8 feet tall and 5-6 feet wide, although the species has been recorded to grow as tall as 30 feet.

For more: Klyn Nurseries Inc., P. O. Box 343, Perry, OH 44081; (800) 860-8104; fax (440) 259-3338; www.klynnurseries.com. Elisabeth C. Miller Botanical Garden, Great Plant Picks, P.O. Box 77377, Seattle, WA 98177; (425) 788-4307; www.greatplantpicks.org.

- Kelli Rodda

 
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