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.
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.
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 cross (C. incana × C. mongholica) to produce Caryopteris × clandonensis, the common hybrid grown in gardens today.
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.
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. If waiting to when the growth emerges in May, you can just prune off any winter dieback that remains.
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.
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
Shown with Sweet Pea vining through it.
Partnering with Cleome
Shown 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.
The seed heads are what catches the snow with interest.
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.
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.
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.