How to Grow and Care for Your Rainbow Leucothoe
Leucothoe fontanesiana is known by a wide array of common names. Depending on where you live it might be called a Rainbow Leucothoe, a Scarlet Fetterbush, Drooping Leucothoe, or my favorite plant name of all... the Mountain Doghobble! This 3-5 ft. plant is an easy to care for, slow growing, multi-stemmed evergreen shrub, with glossy 3-4" leaves.
- The foliage is variegated in bright shades of green, pink, cream, and bronze.
- The thick leaves grow in pairs along 2 ft. drooping stems.
- The bronze coloring becomes much more pronounced in the fall.
- Beginning in late spring and continuing until mid-summer, drooping clusters of Pieris-like flowers appear along the the bottom of each branch.
Growing Requirements for Rainbow Leucothoe plants
- Rainbow Leucothoe are hardy in USDA zones 5-8.
- They should be grown in acidic (pH 4.5 to 6.5), well drained soil, that is rich in peat moss, compost and other organic matter.
- Leucothoe prefer dappled to partial shade but can be planted in full sun in cooler climates, provided that they receive sufficient moisture.
- In warm zones, the foliage will burn in full sun.
- Leucothoe can be grown in deep shade but it will tend to get leggy.
- Leucothoes need regular deep watering and will even thrive in wet, boggy areas.
- Feed yearly with an acid type fertilizer after it has finished blooming.
- Provide a layer of mulch in the summer to keep the roots cool bloom.
- Transplanting should be done in winter or early spring.
Pruning and Propagating Leucothoe Plants
Leucothoe have a tendency to grow a little spindly after a year or two, but pruning will help create a bushier, neater appearing plant. Pruning can be done at any time of the year, but it is best to prune in late winter or early spring, before new growth begins. Plants will quickly spring back if they are cut back hard to 18".
New plants can be started from 4"-6" tip cuttings taken at mid-summer or mid-winter, or by separating offset stems in the late fall or winter.