Caryopteris - They Don't Call it 'Blue Mist Shrub' for Nothing.

This Late Summer Shrub is a Favorite of Bumblebees and Butterflies

Caryopteris - Blue Mist Shrub
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Overview and Description

There are few true blues in the world of flowers, but the blooms on a Caryopteris, or 'Blue Mist Shrub' come very close. When they open in late summer, every bumblebee in town knows about it. This woody perennial is drought tolerant and virtually maintenance free.

Caryopteris forms a neat, low mound. It is extremely drought tolerant and bothered by few pests. Bees and butterflies love it.

  • Leaves: Short, narrow leaves that resemble a willow’s are usually a silvery-gray. Yellow and variegated varieties are also available.
  • Flowers: The flowers give Caryopteris it’s common name of Blue Mist. They are clustered in panicles above the foliage, as little feathery puffs. The flowers are generally some shade of blue or purple, although there is a new pink variety.

Botanical Name

Caryopteris x clandonensis

Common Name

Blue Mist Shrub, Bluebeard

Hardiness Zones

Caryopteris is slow to leaf out in the spring, but don't panic, it is hardy at least down to USDA Hardiness Zones 5 - 9. Since it blooms on new growth from the current year, you don't really have to worry about winter dieback.

Exposure

For the most flowers, site your caryopteris bush in full sun. It will still bloom in partial shade, just not as freely and it may bloom later than it normally would.

Mature Size

Size will vary by variety.

Average Caryopteris shrubs are about 3 - 4 ft.(h) x 3 - 4 ft. (w).

Bloom Period

Caryopteris starts blooming in late July and carries on through August, with the blue flowers slowly fading away.

Suggested Varieties or Caryopteris:

  • Caryopteris x clandonensis - The straight species is one of the hardiest available
  • Caryopteris x clandonensis 'Dark Knight' - Has the darkest blue flowers, but is a bit more temperamental.
  • Caryopteris x clandonensis 'Sunshine Blue' - Deep blue flowers are offset by yellow foliage.
  • Caryopteris x clandonensis ‘Pink Chablis’ - A Proven Winners introduction with pink flowers.

Design Suggestions

Their compact size and soft gray foliage make them a good choice in any size garden. The blue flowers mix particularly well with either pastels and whites or vibrant yellows. Since they bloom later in the summer, Caryopteris is a nice companion for Rudbeckia and goldenrod. They’ll blend equally well with soft colors like pink phlox and pink or white Buddleia.

Caryopteris should be included in every butterfly garden.

Growing Tips

Soil: Caryopteris like a neutral soil pH. Although they can tolerate moist soil, they prefer a well draining site. Once established, they don’t require any supplemental watering,

Planting: You can grow the species from seed. In fact, you may eventually get some self-sown volunteers.

You can also propagate by soft-wood cuttings, in late spring. However most Caryopteris are purchased as plants. After all, how may do you need? Plant in the ground at the same level or a little higher than it is in the container.

Keep new plants watered for their first year. They are not heavy feeders and some organic matter in the planting hole should be all the food they need.

Caring for Caryopteris

To keep the plant shaped and flowering, Caryopteris are cut down by at least half, in the early spring. You can cut them back to 12 - 18 inches, without harm. As the plants age, you will get some dead wood in the center. Prune this out as needed.

They are slow to leaf out in the spring, so don’t panic if yours looks like a dead twig. Be patient.

Side dressing with compost is preferred over fertilizing Caryopteris plants. Too much fertilizer makes for a leafy plant with less blooms.

As I mentioned above, Caryopteris are drought tolerant and shouldn’t need supplemental watering, unless you are having a particularly dry season.

Caryopteris Pests & Problems

Caryopteris can be bothered by the 4-line plant bug in June, The foliage will get mottled, but it doesn’t harm the plant and the bug moves on quickly enough.

More on adding blue flowers to your garden.