If you are looking for an easy care shrub, with little to no pruning, deer resistant, and fabulous fall color, look no further than the Red-Veined Enkianthus.
Award of Garden Merit Plant
Enkianthus campanulatus ‘Showy Lanterns’, the red-veined 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-Veined Enkianthus. The cultivar ‘Showy Lanterns’ with its bright red flower and its wonderful fall coloring is my favorite.
‘Showy Lanterns’ is a compact, slow-growing selection created some years ago by Ed Mezitt of Weston Nursery in MA. Growing to 5′ tall and 3′ wide, this 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 is 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, doing best in partial shade. Requiring acid soil, this would be a good companion in your borders with Rhododendrons and Azaleas.
The species version of Enkianthus gets a bit larger – up to 10 feet high and wide – like the shrub above. But it takes many years to attain that height.
I call it the ‘ugly duckling’ shrub as it can be pretty homely when you first plant it out, but within about five years transforms into a beautiful shrub and your patience is rewarded. 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.