Pieris japonica

Japanese Pieris, Andromeda




  • native to Japan, Taiwan, some parts of eastern China
  • zone 5 and warmer, protected parts of zone 4, although some cold injury expected

Habit and Form

  • broadleaf evergreen shrub
  • upright and spreading branching habit
  • rounded shape
  • dense foliage
  • 6-8' tall with equivalent or slightly narrower spread
  • slow growth rate

Summer Foliage

  • leaves are glossy green
  • moderate-sized, 1.5" to 3.5" long and 0.5" to 0.75" wide
  • leaves are widest at or above the middle
  • leaf margins with shallow serrations
  • foliage clustered in "whorls" at the tips
  • new stems are green and glabrous
  • emerging foliage is an attractive reddish color

Autumn Foliage

  • evergreen, no fall color develops


  • small, white, urn-shaped flowers; 0.25" long
  • held in pendulous, 3" to 6" long clusters
  • blooms early, in March and April
  • flowers last 2 to 3 weeks
  • flowers are weakly fragrant
  • naked flower buds are present through the fall and winter
  • winter flower buds are reddish


  • small, rounded, dehiscent capsules that persist
  • not ornamentally attractive and considered by some to be undesirable


  • gray-brown
  • light vertical fissures
  • mostly hidden by dense foliage


  • prefers a moist, well-drained, cool, organic, acidic soil
  • partial shade is best, but full sun can also be tolerated
  • avoid harsh, windswept locations

Landscape Use

  • foundation plant
  • shrub borders
  • incorporated with other evergreens
  • useful in shaded spots
  • very deer resistant
  • early bloom time is an asset


  • lacebug can cause significant stippling on foliage, making it yellow and unsightly, especially in hot dry sites
  • flower buds often frozen in winter in zone 5 and colder
  • foliage can become desiciated in winter
  • phytophthora root rot

ID Features

  • foliage is whorls at the shoot tip
  • leaves evergreen with shallow teeth on the margin. P. floribunda has cilate (hair-like) margins and Kalmia latifolia has entire margins.
  • pendulous clusters or white urn-shaped flowers in late winter through early spring
  • new growth reddish
  • persistent brown capsules
  • lacebug injury often visible


  • by seed; seed is very fine
  • by cuttings
  • by tissue culture


var. yakushimanum (also listed as 'Yakushima') - A questionable entity, but presumably describes plants with a dwarf, slow-growing habit. The leaves are dark green and the flowers white. Several cultivars have been selected from this variety, including 'Cavatine' and 'Prelude'.

'Bisbee Dwarf', 'Bonsai', 'Pygmaea' (also listed as f. pygmaea) and 'Nocturne' - These are among the most common miniature forms, all of which feature leaves that are much reduced in size and compact, mounded heights generally under 2'.

'Cavatine' - A selection of var. yakushimanum that is receiving increased attention and cultivation. It is a cold-hardy, compact plant with tight leaves that resemble a rhododendron. The white flowers are profuse and appear later in Spring than the species.

'Compacta' -This is a popular dwarf form that only reaches 4' tall and flowers heavily with white blooms.

'Dorothy Wycoff' - Widely considered one of the nicest forms on the market, this plant features compact but vigorous growth. The flower buds are colored dark red and open to reveal light pink blooms. The foliage is dark green in the summer, turning bronze in the winter.

'Mountain Fire' - Quickly becoming one of the most popular cultivar, this plant is most famous for the spectacular new growth, which emerges a vivid orange-red color. The display of new foliage is far more impressive than the white flowers. The plant is truly stunning as the new growth emerges.

'Prelude' - A favorite among many horticulturists, this later-blooming var. yakushimanum selection bears white blooms that remain fresh for a long period. It is a dwarf plant with a tight habit.

'Purity' - The pure white flowers of this cultivar are notable for being larger than those of other forms. It is a compact grower reaching only 4' tall.

'Red Mill' - Selected for its red new growth display, this dense grower has leaves that mature to glossy green. The flowers are white and long-lasting.

'Scarlett O'Hara' - The new growth on this form is red, hence the name. It has white flowers and a more narrow habit.

'Snowdrift' (also listed as 'Snow Drift') - The pure white blooms on this plant are borne in longer panicles than the species. It is a dense grower to 6' tall and wide with reddish new growth.

'Valley Rose' - This tall, open-growing form has light pink blooms and deep green leaves.

'Valley Valentine' - A popular plant and perhaps the best of the pink-flowered forms, this plant bears profuse deep pink blooms that open from red buds. The glossy green foliage clothes a dense, upright plant to 8' tall.

'Variegata' - One of the finer variegated shrubs available, this plant bears leaves with a wide white margin. It is a slow-grower to 6' tall that appreciates shelter from direct sun. The blooms are white, but the foliage is the prime attraction on this popular plant. Other variegated forms include 'White Rim', 'Little Heath' and 'Flaming Silver'.

© Copyright Mark H. Brand, 1997-2015.

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Citation and Acknowledgements: University of Connecticut Plant Database, http://hort.uconn.edu/plants, Mark H. Brand, Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, Storrs, CT 06269-4067 USA.