Enkianthus campanulatus ‘Showy Lanterns’, the red vein enkianthus has always captured my interest with its striking hanging bell-like flowers. In the springtime, this shrub is covered with a profusion of pink-red flowers that cluster thickly along the branches. The Royal Horticultural Society awarded its Award of Garden Merit to the red vein enkianthus. The cultivar ‘Showy Lanterns’ is my favorite.
‘Showy Lantern’ is a compact, slow-growing selection made some years ago by Ed Mezitt of Weston Nursery in MA. Growing to 5′ tall and 3′ wide, this slow-growing shrub bears heavy clusters of dark pink bell-shaped flowers which give off a soft fragrance in mid-May. Sized for a smaller garden, this shrub rarely has any disease or pest problems and should be more widely planted.
Fall color is shades of orange and gold which can set your garden aglow for weeks. Enkianthus are deer resistant and prefers a slightly acidic soil, but has proven tolerant of a wide range of soil conditions. This plant rewards the patient gardener with all season interest with beautiful spring flowers and fall interest. Native to Japan, Enkianthus is hardy in zones 5 to 7 and prefers full sun or partial shade.
I call it the ‘ugly duckling’ shrub as it can be pretty homely when you first plant it out, but within a couple of years transforms into a beautiful shrub. Because it can be gangly looking at the nursery, people don’t pick them up. But a deer resistant, shade tolerant small shrub that displays clusters of beautiful flowers deserves a place in everyone’s garden.