Japanese Pieris (Pieris japonica)

Also called Japanese andromeda, this evergreen shrub is native to Japan, Taiwan, and eastern China. It forms dense thickets in the mountainous regions of its range, typically growing between 6 and 14 feet though occasionally up to 32 feet. Brought over as an ornamental, its numerous cultivars remain widely planted for landscaping and gardens, though it is sensitive to conditions outside its preferences. It demands full sun or partial shade in moderately moist, well-drained, organic matter-rich, acidic soils and does not tolerate winter winds, wet or alkaline soils, or overshading. 


In late winter and early spring, this slow-growing species blooms clusters of white to light pink vase-shaped flowers. These small, sweetly fragrant flowers hang upside down from yellow-pink stems for about 2 to 3 weeks, after which they dry out and persist into the next winter. Japanese pieris flowers, as well as their leaves, are highly toxic to humans and many animals if ingested. Symptoms may range from headaches and vomiting to cardiac failure and death. Some native alternatives to plant to better support local flora and fauna are New Jersey redroot, common buttonbush, maple-leaved viburnum, and winterberry.