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After months of dreary winter weather, we are ready for the cold to be over with. Can we just get a sign that spring is around the corner? Mountain Fire Japanese Pieris (Andromeda) answers our prayers with a delightful display. Tiny, crystal-white blossoms like little bells appear, soothing our flower-starved eyes. They exude a delicious, sweet fragrance, too. Plant Mountain Fire in a shady but prominent spot in your landscape, where you can also enjoy its second performance—the new growth emerges a blazing red color, making a striking contrast with the glossy green leaves. Gorgeous!
Japanese Pieris is often called Andromeda, although few who use that name realize the rather gruesome story behind it. According to Greek myth, Andromeda was a beautiful princess who was chained to a rock as an offering to a sea monster. The “chains” of flowers on this plant represent her own chains. (We’re happy to report that Perseus rescued the fair maiden before any harm was done.) Pieris is native to Japan, Taiwan, and eastern China. Mountain Fire is a beloved form that has been around a long time. It was selected both for its brilliant new foliage and its profuse flowering habit.
Andromeda is in the same family as Rhododendrons, Azaleas, and Blueberries. This family of plants in general likes moist but well-drained, acid soils with lots of organic matter, and Mountain Fire Andromeda is no exception. Many of these plants also like afternoon shade in hot climates, and it is in a bit of shade where this Andromeda shines its brightest. If Azaleas and Rhododendrons do well in your area, then Mountain Fire may be a natural to invite into your landscape.
How to Grow
Not a plant for regions with extremes of heat and cold, Andromeda prefers the more moderate temperatures of its Japanese homeland and does best where those conditions can be replicated. Plant Mountain Fire Andromeda in acidic, moisture-retentive but not boggy soil in a site protected from both intense afternoon sunlight and strong winds. Heavy clay soils that retain too much water invite a deadly root rot disease. On the other hand, drought can take its toll as well. Applying an organic mulch and providing a steady supply of water will help give Mountain Firewhat it needs to thrive.
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