fetterbush lyonia lucida

How To Grow and Care for Lyonia lucida

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It’s not only exotic plants from far-flung corners of the globe that make for beautiful and showy garden specimens. The shining fetterbush is a great native choice for natural gardens that requires very little upkeep if planted in the right area. Read on to learn more about this colorful evergreen shrub.

What Is Lyonia lucida?

Lyonia lucida, commonly known as the shining fetterbush, shiny leaf, fetterbush, fetterbush lyonia, hurrahbush, or Staggerbush is a 3-5ft tall evergreen shrub of the Ericaceae (heath) family.

fetterbush lyonia lucida
Photo by Bob Peterson from North Palm Beach, Florida, Planet Earth! – Fetterbush (Lyonia lucida)Uploaded by Jacopo Werther, CC BY-SA 2.0

This plant is native to the Southeastern coastal plain of the United States, from Louisiana in the west, throughout Florida and to Virginia in the east, where it may occasionally reach heights of up to 13ft (4m) in its natural environment of bogs, swamps, and along stream banks. 

These multi stemmed shrubs have beautiful leathery leaves that are glossy green in color. The simple leaves are alternately arranged and have smooth, entire margins.

Mature leaves measure 3-6 inches (7.5-15cm) long by 1-3 inches (2.5-7.5cm) wide.

Many plants of the genus Lyonia are known to be highly toxic to humans and animals if eaten and some may cause irritation or rash if touched. L. lucida is not known to share these toxic qualities, although there are conflicting reports and one should therefore treat this plant with some respect to stay on the safe side.

Shining fetterbush is highly deer resistant and, although unpalatable, should not be planted in livestock areas. This plant is hardy in USDA zones 7 to 9. 

Shining Fetterbush Flowers

Shining fetterbush flowers are usually pinkish in color but vary from white through red. The flowers are borne in fascicles from the bases of leaves.

These fragrant, bell-shaped, blooms are produced in groups of 10-15 in the springtime and are visited regularly by bees and butterflies.

The small, ¼ inch (6mm) long flowers mature into 1/3 inch (8mm) long woody brown fruits. 

How To Grow Lyonia lucida

Shining fetterbush can be grown from unprepared seed sown in spring, cuttings, or root division. These plants can be grown in full sun, although they prefer full to partial shade or dappled light.

In nature, these plants are typically found in areas that receive seasonal flooding and should therefore be planted in areas with similar conditions for best results.

These plants require an acidic soil with a pH of below 6.8 and can be grown in poorly drained peaty soils, consisting of large amounts of organic material.

This plant, which spreads by suckering, has a slow to medium growth rate in the garden. In nutrient-poor soils, these plants may not flower at all, in order to save energy. Should this be the case, a slow-release fertilizer may be useful.

Care and Maintenance

This is not the easiest plant to keep in good health unless planted in a naturally seasonally moist area. Areas susceptible to seasonal flooding most closely mimic the conditions that this plant is adapted to grow in.

If planted in a suitable area, however, minimal maintenance is necessary. These plants can be cut back to the desired height when necessary.

These shrubs are relatively disease-resistant but may be susceptible to leaf spot. If this is the case, focus on keeping the foliage of the plant dry, removing affected leaves and branches, and perhaps introducing a general-purpose fertilizer to improve the health of the plant before looking at more drastic measures like fungicides. 

Uses

This plant’s suckering habits make it a good choice for a hedge when planted in suitable conditions. Otherwise, this showy species is ideal for naturalized native gardens, especially in seasonally flooded areas where other plants are not able to thrive.

FAQs

Conclusion

This attractive native species is apparently little known and underutilized in the horticultural field. Plant this shrub in a seasonally moist part of a natural style garden and enjoy its beautiful floral display and the wildlife it attracts.

See more: How to Care for Leucothoe fontanesiana

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