The Pieris was a plant that first became popular in the 1980s, most commonly the Forrestii variety, aka ‘Forest Flame’. Since then, Pieris plants have become megastars in the UK gardening world, and for very good reason! It is an aristocratic shrub that rivals the more famous rhododendron for spring glory.

Though it was originally introduced into Britain from China, as long ago as 1906 by George Forrest, only recently has it dramatically gained in popularity, leading to more varieties being propagated by nurseries and growers.

The flower buds develop in autumn as tiny pink tinged pearls strung along slender branches opening in April to reveal waxy white bell shaped blooms. The flowers are very similar to Lily of the Valley except their numbers and weight arch the branches earthbound so they spill over the glossy foliage creating strong contrasting colours.

Pieris burns like a forest aflame

The forest flame Pieris is attractive and interesting enough to enthuse any gardener, but what happens next creates the real excitement. For as the flowers fade the leaves start into spring growth, opening to reveal shoots that are bright vivid scarlet red. The newly formed leaves rage over the plant engulfing it like a fireball and igniting it so brightly that it burns like a forest aflame.

Not content with this fiery display the leaves mellow to a warm salmon pink, and finally through yellow, revert back to green.

During this growing period Pieris retain a noticeable neat and compact shape with their narrow blade-like leaves folding around the plant like a cape around your shoulders. Slow growing and evergreen this shrub is suitable for all gardens for all seasons.

Members of the Pieris family

Pieris forest flame is only one member of the family, there are others available with differing coloured flowers, shorter leaves, more prostrate growth and even variegated foliage.

The top 3 most popular varieties of Pieris plants available in the UK include:

Pieris Forest Flame
Featuring a striking display of flame-colored red, then pink and white as young leaves mature into a rich, glossy green. In early spring, the forest flame produces large clusters of white bell-shaped flowers.
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Pieris Japonica Mountain Fire
Features glossy, dark green leaves that turn a fiery shade of red in the spring, creating a striking contrast with the plant's delicate white.
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Pieris Japonica Carnaval
Boasting an impressive display of variegated foliage, with glossy green leaves splashed with creamy-white edges that turn pinkish-red in autumn and delicate creamy-white bell-shaped flowers, that appear in early spring.
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Look for them soon and you will be able to see them at their very best.

A photo collage of three different species of Pieris plants.

How to look after your Pieris

All forms of Pieris are excellent for grouping with other acid loving plants like heathers, azaleas, camellias, and of course, rhododendrons. Alternatively, display them as a specimen in a mixed border or even planted in a tub.

Here are some top tips for looking after Pieris plants in the UK:

  • While Pieris plants don't like to be waterlogged, they do require regular watering, especially during dry spells. Water deeply once a week, and be sure to keep the soil moist but not soggy
  • Pieris plants benefit from regular feeding with an acid-loving fertiliser, such as one formulated for rhododendrons and azaleas. Apply the fertiliser in early spring and mid-summer.
  • Prune your Pieris plant in late spring or early summer, after it has finished blooming. This will encourage bushy growth and keep the plant looking tidy.
  • Apply a layer of mulch around the base of your Pieris plant in early spring, to help retain moisture and suppress weeds.
  • Be sure to plant them in a location that receives dappled sunlight or morning sun and afternoon shade.
  • Watch out for common pests and diseases, such as scale insects, lace bugs, and fungal leaf spot. If you notice any problems, treat them promptly with an appropriate insecticide or fungicide.

In general, the main things to consider are that Pieris thrive in an acid soil, so mix in some ericaceous compost (for acid loving plants) when planting. And remember to water the plant regularly during its first growing season. Very little further attention is necessary except to mulch with ericaceous compost again every spring and to trim off the dead flower heads. As the spring growth can be tainted by a hard late frost choose a sheltered site that is away from the early morning sun.