How to Grow and Care for Japanese Andromeda

Cultivars Offer Red Color for the Yard in Early Spring

Japanese andromeda plant with small pink bell-shaped flowers closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Japanese andromeda is mainly grown for the dangling racemes of bell-shaped flowers that it bears in early spring. A member of the Ericaceae family, this evergreen has a number of relatives that are also popular landscape shrubs, including rhododendrons and azaleas, mountain laurel, and winter heath. This is a slow-growing shrub that adds about 1 foot per year. Some gardeners consider the smell of Japanese andromeda flowers to be a plus, while others dislike the smell. The plant suffers from an additional drawback: it is toxic to humans and as well as pets.

Common Name Japanese andromeda, Japanese pieris, lily of the valley bush, fetterbush
Botanical Name Pieris japonica
Family Ericaceae
Plant Type Shrub
Mature Size 9-12 ft. tall, 6-8 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Full, partial
Soil Type Moist, well-drained
Soil pH Acidic
Bloom Time Spring
Flower Color White
Hardiness Zones  5-7 (USDA)
Native Area Asia
Toxicity Toxic to humans, toxic to pets

Japanese Andromeda Care

Its shade tolerance makes Japanese andromeda useful to those gardeners who have a lot of shade in their yards. It is also commonly used in foundation plantings, as a spring specimen, and in shrub borders. Being glossy and evergreen, the leaves provide winter interest, so will be appreciated during the cold-weather months. This shrub is highly valued by gardeners anxious to have color in the yard as soon as spring arrives. Its blooms come in late winter or early spring, sometimes while there is still snow on the ground.

Japanese andromeda plant with dangling racemes with small green flowers

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Japanese andromeda plant with small pink and white bell-shaped flowers on top of stem and leaves

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Japanese andromeda plant with white bell-shaped flowers on edge of stems closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Japanese andromeda plant with leaves behind dangling racemes of small pink and white bell-shaped flowers

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Japanese andromeda plant with small pink buds on flower stalk and leaves

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Light

While this shrub will survive in a location with nearly full shade, flowering will be better in full sun to partial shade.

Soil

The ground should be kept evenly moist, but the soil should drain well. Japanese andromeda does not thrive in soggy soil.

Water

Japanese Andromeda has average water needs and does not tolerate drought well. Water if the first 3 inches of the soil feels dry.

Temperature and Humidity

This plant thrives in a moderate climate, where the temperatures don't get scorching hot. It tolerates a wide variety of humidity levels.

Fertilizer

Feed Japanese andromeda with a fertilizer meant for acid-loving shrubs. So if you are already fertilizing your azaleas, for example, you can use the same fertilizer for your Japanese andromeda.

Types of Japanese Andromeda

Beyond the species plant, cultivars have been developed that have become quite popular. The new spring leaves of even the species plant have a reddish-bronze color, but, on a number of the cultivars, these same leaves offer a more striking red color. Notable cultivars include:

  • 'Compacta': This is a good choice if you need a shorter plant, as its mature height is just 4 feet.
  • 'Forest Flame': New spring leaves start out an intense red, then fade to a pink that is still quite attractive.
  • 'Mountain Fire': Orange mixes with the red on the young leaves of this cultivar.
  • 'Red Mill': This is one of the best cultivars if you seek bright red color on the new foliage.
  • 'Valley Rose': Grow 'Valley Rose' if you want a Japanese andromeda that bears light pink flowers.
  • 'Variegata': One of the cultivars with two-toned leaves, the foliage of 'Variegata' is green in the middle, but the edge of the leaf is white.

Pruning

This plant has a naturally attractive shape and will often grow neatly with no pruning. However, cut off dead, dying, or diseased branches, and tidy up the foliage occasionally.

Propagating Japanese Andromeda

Though Japanese andromeda can be grown from seed, it takes a long time for the seeds to germinate and grow. Therefore, most choose to propagate the plant from cuttings:

  1. Wait until the end of summer to cut a 6-inch stem of new growth from the original plant.
  2. Remove the leaves, keeping only one or two pairs at the top of the stem.
  3. Dip the end of the cutting in rooting hormone and place it immediately in a prepared container. Keep the cutting in indirect sunlight and ensure the soil stays moist, but not wet.
  4. Let the roots grow until the following spring when the plants should be ready to transplant outside.

Potting and Repotting Japanese Andromeda

When planting Japanese andromeda in a pot, select one about the same size as the nursery pot it came in and make sure it has large drain holes, as Japanese andromeda does not like wet soil.

Fill the pot with well-draining potting mix and tamp the soil down around it with your hand to remove any trapped air. Water the plant immediately afterwards.

When the root system has filled the pot (an indicator is when water rushes right through the pot, or you see roots growing out of the drain holes), it is time to transplant it to a larger pot, one size up. Do this in the spring or fall and work some compost into the potting mix.

Overwintering

Japanese andromeda is winter hardy to USDA zone 5 and needs no winter protection when grown in garden soil but the roots of container plants should be protected from cold, drying winter winds by wrapping burlap and a layer of bubble wrap around the container, or by placing it in an insulating silo.

Common Pests and Plant Diseases

Fungal diseases are a common plague for Japanese andromeda. To avoid this, ensure good air circulation around the plant and use a fungicide when appropriate.

The andromeda lacebug often attacks this particular plant, hence the name. To prevent it, keep your plant in full sun, apply horticultural oil to the undersides of the leaves, and use pesticides if necessary.

How to Get Japanese Andromeda to Bloom

Failure to bloom is often caused by lack of sunlight. While the plant tolerates partial shade, too much shade is detrimental to its bloom.

FAQ
  • Can Japanese andromeda grow indoors?

    Japanese andromeda can make an excellent potted plant. Make sure the pot has good drainage and for the best growth, keep the pot outside as much as possible during the summer.

  • What is an alternative to Japanese andromeda?

    If you want something like Japanese andromeda in a rather shaded area, give mountain andromeda a try.

  • Is Japanese andromeda deer-resistant?

    Yes, deer tend to leave the plant alone.

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Guide to Poisonous Plants: Japanese Pieris. Colorado State University.

  2. Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants: Andromeda japonica. ASPCA.