Caryopteris – Calling All Pollinators


Caryopteris and Skipper

If there ever was a plant that pleased the pollinators, it is Caryopteris. The garden will be buzzing and flapping for a couple of months worth of bloom. The plant has a romantic feel in airy blue flower and is appropriately named Blue Mist Spirea. Longwood Blue, Heavenly Blue and Dark Knight are popular cultivars. The small shrub tolerates drought and prefers not to be in moist conditions.


Caryopteris and Wool Carder Bee

It attracts pollinators of all size and I consider this to be an important reason for including it in the garden. In fact, it is a great plant to welcome in Autumn when other plants retire for the season.


Caryopteris Shrub

Not native to the US, the roughly 15 species of Caryopteris come from the dry and hot lands of the Himalayas and eastern Asia. It was an accidental crossΒ  (C. incana Γ— C. mongholica) to produce Caryopteris Γ— clandonensis, the common hybrid grown in gardens today.


Caryopteris and Carpenter Bee

Longwood Blue

The grayish green leaves and blue flowers have a welcoming cooling contrast to late Summer/early Autumn golds and reds. The leaves are also mildly fragrant, similar to plants in a herb garden.


Caryopteris and Cabbage White Butterfly

It is a low maintenance woody shrub that can be pruned back hard in April to help maintain its loosely rounded shape. I have not cut them back and had very little die back even in this snowy climate.Β  If waiting to when the growth emerges in May, you can just prune off any winter dieback that remains.


Caryopteris and Carpenter Bee

Caryopteris is a great plant for those planting a water conservation garden. In gardens I design, I will often include this plant. For those not wanting to share space with bees, I do keep it well off from entertaining areas. I have used it to border and also as a hedge to natural areas. It is a very versatile deciduous plant.


Caryopteris and Ailanthus Webworm

Dark Knight

I was asked to do a post on a plant by Bom at Plant Chaser that I really wanted to own and state how I acquired it. Being a designer, garden plants are easy to acquire, and there are many of them that I have planted or trialed in our climate. There are plants I would love to grow here but can’t, so I refrain from owning those that require too much care or special conditions. I chose carefree Caryopteris because I think it is a hard-working plant that is underused in the garden. You get a lot for very little input.

  • Lovely form
  • Great blue color
  • Delicate looking flowers and plant texture
  • Nectar for insects
  • Variety of insects
  • Low maintenance
  • Long blooming
  • Drought resistance
  • Partners well with other plants
  • Silvery gray leaves a plus, keeps plant interest all season
  • Looks great in winter uncut with dusting of snow

Sweet Pea vining through Caryopteris

Shown with Sweet Pea vining through it.


Caryopteris partnered with Cleome

Partnering with Cleome

Caryopteris-PartnersShown far left before blooming with Sweet Pea trailing through in pink. Tolerating a tight condition, the constantly dry bed is 18 inches wide, backed by quick draining stone and a six-foot fence. It is fronted by a concrete drive.


Caryopteris in the snow

The seed heads are what catches the snow with interest.


Silvery gray leaves

This plant is getting more difficult to buy in our region because nurseries have not been stocking it in the last few years. I am not sure why except as a late bloomer, maybe that keeps the gardeners from purchasing early and nurseries end up with excess.


Caryopteris and Sweat Bee

This year, our area was very dry and the established plants flowered from late July through August. Usually it makes it through September and even into early October. Currently, the new starts are flowering, extending the growing season and providing for migrating pollinators.

SweatBee-2The real interest of this beautiful plant is the endless stream of pollinators that will visit.


Caryopteris will self-seed but not excessively, so you will have a few young, fast growing plants to share with friends. Enlarge these photos and fall in love with this plant.


Plant some today and add a little blue to your garden. The butterflies and bees will thank you.


Caryopteris in the garden

About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at:
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51 Responses to Caryopteris – Calling All Pollinators

  1. Linda B says:

    I too love caryopteris! A true blue in the garden is hard to come by. There is a variety with variegated foliage (Summer Sorbet) which gives season long interest.

    • I am familiar with the variegated (yellow) leaf varieties. I agree they do add additional interest. Did you ever hear Kermit say, “It’s good to be green.” I do think the green varieties have a full season interest though. It adds a different leaf color/texture to the garden and plays nicely off the blue/purple flowers. I think it is a good all-round plant since it is also rarely, if ever affected by pest and disease. I usually ask the wholesale nurseries to special order it if it is not in their yards for purchase.

  2. What a beautiful plant!!!! Hard not to fall in love with it!!

  3. Phil Lanoue says:

    Beautiful photos and excellent information.
    Both our bee and butterfly population seems way down this season.

  4. Beautiful Captures – love seeing the variety of insects:)

  5. Pat says:

    It’s a beautiful plant. Low maintenance, long-blooming sounds good to me.

  6. I am always looking for low maintenance, drought tolerant suggestions for the garden; your suggestions are greatly appreciated.

  7. No kidding about the pollinators! I can’t get close to the space just in front or to the sides of my several Caryopteri (plural?) out of fear of turning all that buzzing in my direction. But, good for them, I say (and keep my distance)! I just about swooned over your first photo and all the macros afterwards. It’s a lovely plant to photograph, but your images take that beauty a step further. And great info on the plant. Definitely worth having.

  8. It’s truly dreamy, Donna. That shade of blue reminds me of the Plumbago featured in Pam Penick’s most recent post. Absolutely my favorite shade of blue. How fun to see the pollinators enjoying it, too! I’ve never seen the Alainthus webworm before.

    • They come in various shades of blue/purple. I have planted maybe 8 different varieties and I do prefer the three named in the post. The webworm is actually a moth. I can never get them to fly, or you would see they are much like a moth. With wings closed, they look like a pretty bug.

  9. You always have the most beautiful photos. These are so lovely. I found that webworm to be a fascinating insect.

    • Thank you. We did not have this insect here four years ago. I sent a photo into Cornell to have it identified. With the warming weather up here, we have been getting many insects not very common. In my next post, two butterflies that made there way here but are uncommon in our area.

  10. Swati Singh says:

    Nice photos
    regards πŸ™‚

  11. connie661 says:

    What a wonderful plant. Thanks for the great suggestions.

  12. You have highlighted one of my very favorite plants, Donna. I have Dark Knight (you wrote Dark Night which may be a typo) and I love it because it is a BLUE late bloomer — there are so few true blues at this time of the year. I notice yours is planted in a sheltered corner, and I think this is a good idea, as branches break off mine in sever weather. This year I was thinking of protecting it with some sort of barrier in case we have another hurricane. Your main point is well taken — mine is truly a bee magnet! Brilliant photos, as always. P. x

    • Thanks Pam. Being dyslexic, I make a ton of spelling errors. I read and reread, but never see the mistake. Dark Knight is in my garden too, and I do like the deeper blue color. The other varieties I have are lighter and more on the purple side. I don’t have them all in a protected area though. One gets the west wind directly. I find keeping the unprotected ones shorter helps. I should do that with Perovskia too. My two always get flattened in the wind.

  13. A.M.B. says:

    You may have just solved a mystery for me! We have this beautiful blue flower that appears in the fall (right about now), and I had no idea what it was. It’s always covered in butterflies and bees. Thank you!

  14. Brian Comeau says:

    I’ve never seen a sweet bee. Very beautiful. I have to ask with all you close up work… how often do you get stung ? πŸ™‚

    • Sweat Bees are a large group of bees I think. This Metallic Green Bee is really a beauty. Funny, but I was never stung by a bee, yet I am sure I am allergic. My brother is severely allergic and almost died. I got stung by yellow jackets on a job site and was delirious, dizzy, had difficulty breathing, and was sick to my stomach. I know wasps are not bees, but I just have a strong feeling if I do get stung, I will on my way to the hospital. How I got stung by the wasps was they were clearing the site for construction and bulldozed their nest. I was out surveying the work and the wasps zeroed in on me, not the brushhog.

  15. I think caryopteris is very beautiful too. I especially like the cultivar Worcester Gold which has gold leaves. It seems mine bloom for more like two to three weeks down here but maybe I am not remembering correctly.

    • I am not as fond of the gold-leaf varieties. It is just personal preference I guess, but I think they do have shorter bloom time from my experience. My older plants bloom for a really long time. It might have to do with not cutting them back, but they keep producing. In many images I have the spent flowers next to newly opened and soon to come. Plus, I have a number of plants too. The last year volunteers bloom much later in the season, keeping the pollinators very happy. They also bloom for the shortest time, like only two weeks.

  16. Oh, this is just gorgeous. I have worked over the past several years to plant perennials that attract butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees. I love your blog!

  17. janechese says:

    Love these flowers. A be isa bee is a bee-not! Never knew there were so many varieties.

  18. Stephi says:

    Yours look so much prettier than mine. Maybe it’s too much water, or wind? Some of them tend to flop over too much for my liking. But, when not flopping over, it is a pretty item to have blooming so late in the season.

    • Too much water might make them grow quicker and leggier. I never saw one flopped over. Usually the stems are quite strong when they mature. We have high winds today, I will have to check on my younger plants that face the wind and see if they bend and flop.

  19. Raven Simons says:

    I love this plant, too, and it does very well where I live in Utah. I’ve shared this over to the facebook pages I manage that focus on pollinators and gardening. Thank you!

  20. Wow, you have some great photos of the Blue Mist Flowers and the insects that love it. Enjoyed the read. Blessings, Natalie

  21. Laurrie says:

    A great plant in my garden as well, and your photos capture its clear amethyst beauty, and even its pretty structure in winter. I leave mine standing in winter as you do, then cut it to six inches in early spring. Another great attribute: easy to propagate. I have additional caryopteris plants that I got just by sticking a pruned twig in the ground! I like that you highlight the pollinators’ delight in this plant. I swear the bees around mine are wobbling drunkenly, they look utterly intoxicated.

    • Cutting are a fast way to propagate. I do that in addition to layering on many plants. I like to make new plants for plant sales so I get them going the year before. As much as I like the plants for bees, many people shun it for that reason. It is like peonies and ants, they just don’t like insects crawling about the garden.

  22. bittster says:

    You’ve won me over, need to add this plant! I think I’ll stay with the plain green versions, but the ‘summer sorbet’ version might feed my variegation addiction….must… not….get….it!

    • The greens seem more reliable and lasting here. It could just be our area that I notice this though. It is not a good idea to make blanket statements on plants since in other places sometimes the opposite occurs. Even slight environmental changes affects bloom time and how a plant performs, or even if it performs.

  23. Bom says:

    Great post Donna! Those are stunning close-ups of the caryopteris and the insects. Too bad it seems like another temperate climate plant that I will never grow. All I have is my plumbago.

    Did you ever ask why the supplies are not as plentiful? If you use them regularly, you may have to start propagating them yourself.

  24. I have always loved this plant and had a great shrub in my old garden. Here though it does not like the soil, the weather and the lower lying land. They do not do well in this garden even in full sun in dry conditions….interesting.

  25. Fergiemoto says:

    I’ve been trying to find the name of this plant, and now thanks to you, I know what it is. I saw them swarming with honey bees and I’ve been wanting to get some to attract the pollinators. Thank you!

  26. I’ve never heard of this plant so this was a very interesting post. And any plants that will help bees live is a good one, except for invasive ones that are pushing out native plants. Native bees don’t sting – except for female bumble bees , when grabbed, and they are also in serious trouble and in steep decline. So they would be good ones to encourage to come to home gardens by adding bare ground, and drilled wood blocks, old stems, etc. along with a continuous supply of bee-friendly flowers.

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