Does Mountain Fire Pieris do well in our area? If so, what are good companion plants or shrubs? Also, what would you plant with red double Knockout roses?
The Gardener’s Answer
Hi, Mary: Pieris japonica ‘Mountain Fire’ is a slow-growing evergreen shrub. It is hardy in gardening zones 5-8, which means that as Kentucky gardeners it will survive our winters. Although they are winter hardy, they are a bit picky when it comes to soil conditions. These broad-leafed evergreens are native to Japan and members of the Ericaceae family, which includes azaleas and rhododendrons. All members of this family require acidic soil with a pH between 4.5-5.5. The soil should be moist but well-drained. Pieris will not tolerate soil that does not drain well. If you have a space in the garden that receives morning sun and afternoon shade, this would be ideal for a pieris. They are nice as a specimen planting or as a border. However, if we incorporate them into the garden it is important that we give them the optimal growing conditions or they will struggle. Good companion plants would include other members of this family such as azaleas, but using shade or part shade loving perennials would be a nice combination as well. Epimedium, astilbe, helleborus, ferns, heuchera and Solomon’s Seal are all good choices. As for your Knockout roses they are quite stunning all by themselves, but adding additional color will certainly make a statement. Choosing companion plants will depend on the look you are going for: if it is a more formal garden boxwoods would be nice but if you are going for more of a cottage look adding perennials such as salvia, lavender, geraniums, baptisia, and pervoskia would all be good options.