While many flowers are starting to fade as we head into fall, Caryopteris plants are still blooming, which makes them valuable in the garden as they are a welcome treat for pollinators. Caryopteris plants are known for their fragrance and blue flowers that bloom in the late summer and early fall. It is a perennial flowering shrub that can grow two to four feet tall and wide.
Caryopteris (cari-OP-er-is) is a genus of about seven species of shrubs in the family Asparagaceae. The genus name comes from the Greek karyon meaning "nut" and pteron meaning "wing" in reference to the winged fruits found on this shrub. The plant is native to East Asia.
The plant is also known as Bluebeard, Blue Mist, or Blue Spirea. The name “Bluebeard” comes from the flower’s resemblance to a beard and the blue color of its flowers. It has been used in gardens for centuries and was a popular choice in Victorian gardens. They are mostly grown as ornamental plants. Many of the new varieties are dwarf making it a versatile plant as it can be used for perennial borders, shrub borders, containers, small gardens, and pollinator gardens.
Caryopteris plants are a popular choice for adding colors and interest to the garden in last summer to frost. It is a great choice for a summer garden because it is also drought tolerant. Caryopteris plants are known for the clusters of blue flowers that are about 3-4 inches across. The flowers grow on long graceful stems with small leaves. The foliage is aromatic when brushed with a hand and has a smell like a grapefruit. The flower spikes and the fragrance of the plant attract bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and other pollinating insects.
Care Of Caryopteris
Planting – Caryopteris is usually planted from a nursery plant in the fall or spring. It can even be planted in a summer container. Make sure to plant the shrub in a hole that is prepared with compost or peat moss to improve drainage. The crown of the plant needs to be level with the soil service or slightly higher. The plant is hardy for zones 5-9.
Light – The plant is easy to grow and low-maintenance. The plant will thrive in full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight). It will tolerate partial shade but will not flower as much.
Soil – Caryopteris prefers average moisture to medium moisture and well-drained soil. They are not tolerant of wet poorly drained soil. It is recommended to mulch around the plant in the winter.
Water – Once the plant is established you do not have to water the plant that often to keep it happy. While the plant is drought tolerant, make sure the soil drains well.
Fertilizer – With good soil, there is no need to fertilize. If the soil is poor, each spring help the plant out by using a time-release fertilizer. Over-fertilizing the plant will cause the plant to direct its energy to leaf production at the expense of flowers.
Pruning – Deadhead the flowers to encourage more blooms. Pruning Caryopteris plants short can take place at the end of winter. This will help produce beautiful blooms in the summer. Severe pruning helps upkeep a compact plant and nice blooming. After this process, cover the plant with thick dried leaf mulch to protect the plant from freezing. If you live in a colder climate, wait until spring to do your pruning. As the plant ages, you will get some dead wood in the center. Prune this out as needed.
Pests and Diseases – Caryopteris is pretty much pest-free and deer resistant. There are no diseases that have been reported infecting the plant.
Once the plant is established it can thrive for many years. There are instances the plant has lived for several decades.
Second photo courtesy of Proven Winners