This southeastern United States native is a low-growing evergreen shrub with attractive flowers resembling lily-of-the-valley in spring. It usually reaches three to six feet in height and width. Its spreading, arching branches droop with the weight of the pendulous fragrant clusters of creamy white flowers. The leaves are leathery and dark green, three to six inches long. They often take on a bronzy to purplish color in fall and winter. Tight, low, dwarf forms are available.
How to grow: This shrub is a good choice for partial to full shade, though it will tolerate sun if mulched and protected from drying winds. It prefers moist, well-drained, organic soils and acidic growing conditions. If it gets too leggy, it can be cut back to the ground.
Uses: Leucothoe is a good ground cover and is excellent for mass plantings. It nicely hides the base of other shrubs that become leggy over time, especially rhododendrons. Both flowers and leaves are used in bouquets.
Related varieties: There are numerous cultivars around with varying leaf colors and sizes. Some of the best have variegated green and white leaves or dark purple ones.
Scientific name: Leucothoe fontanesiana