Leucothoe fontanesiana girard’s rainbow

Drooping Leucothoe, Fetterbush, Dog Hobble ‘Girard’s Rainbow’

View this plant in a garden



Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Sun Exposure:

Light Shade


Grown for foliage


Good Fall Color



This plant is resistant to deer

Foliage Color:



36-48 in. (90-120 cm)


36-48 in. (90-120 cm)


USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 °C (-30 °F)

USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 °C (-25 °F)

USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 °C (-20 °F)

USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 °C (-15 °F)

USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 °C (-10 °F)

USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 °C (-5 °F)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 °C (0 °F)

USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 °C (5 °F)

Where to Grow:

Unknown – Tell us


All parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:

White/Near White

Bloom Characteristics:

Flowers are good for cutting

Flowers are fragrant

Bloom Size:

Unknown – Tell us

Bloom Time:

Mid Spring

Other details:

Unknown – Tell us

Soil pH requirements:

5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)

6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:

Unknown – Tell us

Propagation Methods:

From herbaceous stem cuttings

From woody stem cuttings

From softwood cuttings

From semi-hardwood cuttings

From hardwood cuttings

Seed Collecting:

Unknown – Tell us


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Oakland, California

Richmond, California

Stamford, Connecticut

Atlanta, Georgia

Gainesville, Georgia

Marietta, Georgia

Louisville, Kentucky

Zachary, Louisiana

Baltimore, Maryland

Centreville, Maryland

Piedmont, Missouri

Munsonville, New Hampshire

Haines Falls, New York

Ithaca, New York

Sayville, New York

Asheville, North Carolina

Davidson, North Carolina

Greensboro, North Carolina

Hayesville, North Carolina

Lake Toxaway, North Carolina

Statesville, North Carolina

Downingtown, Pennsylvania

Harmony, Pennsylvania

Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania

Norristown, Pennsylvania

Nashville, Tennessee

Hood, Virginia

Seattle, Washington

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Leucothoe fontanesiana

  • Attributes: Genus: Leucothoe Species: fontanesiana Family: Ericaceae Life Cycle: Woody Country Or Region Of Origin: South Eastern U.S.A Distribution: South Eastern US, Appalachian Mountains Wildlife Value: Its flowers are attractive to bees, butterflies and other pollinators. It provides good cover, especially in the winter. Play Value: Wildlife Food Source Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems): This plant is highly resistant to damage from deer. Dimensions: Height: 3 ft. 0 in. – 6 ft. 0 in. Width: 3 ft. 0 in. – 6 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits: Plant Type: Native Plant Poisonous Shrub Leaf Characteristics: Broadleaf Evergreen Habit/Form: Arching Erect Mounding Maintenance: Low Texture: Coarse
  • Cultural Conditions: Light: Dappled Sunlight (Shade through upper canopy all day) Deep shade (Less than 2 hours to no direct sunlight) Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours) Soil Texture: Clay High Organic Matter Loam (Silt) Sand Soil pH: Acid (<6.0) Soil Drainage: Moist Occasionally Wet Available Space To Plant: 3 feet-6 feet NC Region: Mountains Piedmont Usda Plant Hardiness Zone: 4b, 4a, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b
  • Fruit: Display/Harvest Time: Fall Fruit Type: Capsule Fruit Description: Globular, 5-lobed capsule, not ornamental.
  • Flowers: Flower Color: White Flower Inflorescence: Raceme Spike Flower Value To Gardener: Fragrant Showy Flower Bloom Time: Spring Flower Shape: Bell Flower Petals: fused petals Flower Size: 1-3 inches Flower Description: Drooping racemes of waxy, urn-shaped, creamy white flowers that droop from the leaf axils in spring (May). The small, 2″ to 3″ flowers are fragrant to ill-scented.
  • Leaves: Leaf Characteristics: Broadleaf Evergreen Leaf Color: Green Leaf Feel: Glossy Leaf Value To Gardener: Showy Deciduous Leaf Fall Color: Red/Burgundy Leaf Type: Simple Leaf Arrangement: Alternate Leaf Shape: Lanceolate Leaf Margin: Serrate Hairs Present: No Leaf Length: 3-6 inches Leaf Description: Glossy, lanceolate, evergreen leaves (to 5″ long) have widespread serrate margins and taper to a long point. They are alternate, simple, lustrous dark green leaves (lighter below), 2 to 5 in. long. They have long slender stems with limited branching and a sharp pointed apex with fine, wide spread serrations.

  • Stem: Stem Color: Green Red/Burgundy Stem Is Aromatic: No Stem Description: New growth is red.
  • Landscape: Landscape Location: Naturalized Area Woodland Landscape Theme: Pollinator Garden Winter Garden Design Feature: Hedge Attracts: Butterflies Pollinators Resistance To Challenges: Deer Erosion Heavy Shade
  • Poisonous to Humans: Poison Severity: High Poison Symptoms: Salivation and nasal discharge, sweating, tingling sensation, headache, depression, weakness, abdominal pain, nausea vomiting Poison Toxic Principle: Andromedotoxin Causes Contact Dermatitis: No Poison Part: Flowers Leaves

Growing A Leucothoe Bush: Learn About Types Of Leucothoe

One of the more pleasant broadleaf evergreen shrubs is leucothoe. Leucothoe plants are native to the United States and provide trouble free attractive foliage and flowers. It is a very versatile plant and can grow in almost any soil. Acidic, well-draining soil provides perfect leucothoe growing conditions, but the plant can tolerate a range of other soil types as long as the pH is not alkaline. There are several types of leucothoe from which to choose, any of which would enhance your garden and delight you with the plant’s low maintenance.

About Leucothoe Plants

As a gardener, I am always looking for unique plants that require no special attention and will persist as beautiful focal points for the duration of my garden. Sounds like wishful thinking but it isn’t. Leucothoe plants provide the interest, longevity and ease of care that suit my landscape. They grow wild in the eastern United States in moist woodlands and along streams.

This deer resistant plant is suitable for the more temperate regions of North America. Try growing a leucothoe bush as a single specimen in containers or in groups as part of a border. Whatever you try, you won’t be disappointed with the fantastic foliage and undemanding care of leucothoe.

One of the best things about leucothoe is its new stem growth. Most species have red, bronze or vibrant green young stems which deepen to dark, glossy green. The stems are arching and elegant, decorated with tapered leaves. The glossy broad leaves are evident year round with some types producing attractive variegated foliage. Leaves may develop a reddish or bronze hue in fall.

All varieties of leucothoe bear dangling little bell-shaped flowers. The flowers are usually white but may also be bluish. These tiny bells become 5 lobed globular fruits. Leucothoe plants are vase shaped bushes that grow between 3 and 5 feet in height.

Growing a Leucothoe Bush

The two main requirements for good leucothoe growing conditions are acidic soil and moisture. The plant can tolerate brief periods of dryness but the healthiest plants get moderate but consistent water.

Shade to partially shady locations develop the best leaf color in variegated forms. Full sun locations are tolerated so long as plenty of moisture is available.

Incorporate organic matter to the planting site and till soil to a depth of at least one foot. Dig the hole for the plant twice as deep and wide as the root ball. Press soil around the roots and water the plant in well. Keep the plant moist until establishment. Thereafter, check soil moisture to a depth of 3 inches and water deeply if it is dry.

Types of Leucothoe

Leucothoe is a popular ornamental garden plant and many cultivars have been developed. There are over 10 commonly available species but a few are real standout performers.

  • Leucothoe axillaris is a fairly small bush and show off in a rockery, foundation plant or on slopes.
  • Girard’s Rainbow (Leucothoe fontanesiana) has white, pink and bronze new growth.
  • Leucothoe racemosa native species found from Massachusetts down to Louisiana, is one of the more cold tolerant forms and has 4-inch long racemes of drooping, scented flowers from May through June.

Care of Leucothoe

Leucothoe is remarkable not only for its attractive appearance but because it is relatively untroubled by pests or disease. It is best to protect the plant from drying winds which may damage the lovely foliage. A thick layer of mulch around the root zone will protect the area from desiccation and prevent weed competitors.

The plants do not need pruning unless you have an errant stem or broken material. You can rejuvenate older plants and enjoy the new growth by removing stems to within a few inches of the soil. Some leucothoe will produce suckers and will require removal of wayward vertical growth.

Leucothoe is a genus of broadleaf evergreen flowering plants, belonging to the family Ericaceae along with Calluna vulgaris.

This genus has around 50 different species, including Leucothoe Fontanesiana and Leucothoe Axillaris.

All of these species are low maintenance and produce beautiful foliage to enhance the overall beauty of the garden, particularly in winter and autumn.

Leucothoe works well on dry slopes without irrigation and slopes near water.

This plant is native to Madagascar, Asia, and the United States.

The common names of this plant include:

  • Coastal Doghobble
  • Drooping Leucothoe
  • Swamp Doglaurel
  • Fetterbush
  • Coastal Leucothoe
  • Rainbow Leucothoe
  • Mountain Doghobble
  • Scarletta Fetterbush

Leucothoe Plant Care

Size & Growth

This evergreen shrub is vase-shaped and grows about 3’ to 5’ feet tall.

It spreads about 6’ feet or more.

The stems of this plant are elegant and arching.

The majority of the species start with vibrant green, bronze, or red stems, which turn into glossy or dark green as they mature.

The plant has spear-shaped or elongated leaves.

The leaf color ranges from red, pink, pale yellow, or green, and changes to purple or bronzy during the autumn season.

Some of the varieties also have variegated leaves.

Flowering and Fragrance

  • All the varieties of this plant produce bell-shaped, white flowers.
  • The flower color might also be bluish in some species.
  • These tiny flowers gradually transform into five-lobed globular fruits.
  • The bloom time of this plant is between April and May.

Light & Temperature

This plant tolerates the full sun if there is a sufficient amount of moisture in the soil.

Full shade to partial shade is required to develop vibrant leaf color and variegated leaves.

The lighter spot you place this plant in, the more beautiful its color will become.

These plants are hardy to USDA Hardiness Zones 6 through 9.

This plant is moderately hardy but requires a bit of protection during the winter season.

Provide extra protection during periods when thawing and frosting occur regularly.

Watering and Feeding

This plant has the ability to tolerate short dryness spells.

However, for healthy plants, you must provide it with consistent but moderate water.

Make sure the soil stays moist and ensure the soil doesn’t completely dry out between waterings.

Keep in mind the Mountain Doghobble shouldn’t sit in standing water for an extended period.

Feed the plant with special Ericaceae fertilizer during the spring season to enhances its health and maintain the acidity of the soil.

Soil & Transplanting

It grows optimally in well-draining and acidic soil.

This plant is rather versatile and grows well in all types of soil, but make sure the pH level of the soil isn’t alkaline.

Grooming and Maintenance

  • Protect this plant from drying winds as it might damage the foliage.
  • Apply a layer of organic matter or mulch all around the root area to prevent desiccation and weed.
  • A bark layer also works well in maintaining the acidity of the soil and protecting the plant from drying out.
  • There is not much need for pruning unless there is a broken or errant stem.
  • Enjoy new growth by taking out stems within a few inches of the soil, which will rejuvenate the old plants.

How to Propagate Leucothoe Plant

The propagation of this plant is done using half-ripe cuttings and seeds.

  • Sow the seeds in late winter in part shade inside the greenhouse.
  • Be sure to cover the seeds lightly.
  • Make sure the compost doesn’t dry out throughout the germination process.
  • Once the plant is big enough to handle, take the seedlings out and plant them in separate pots.
  • Allow the plant to grow under light shade inside the greenhouse till their first winter.
  • During late spring, transfer the plant in their permanent spot in the garden during the late spring season.

When propagating the plant using half-rip cuttings, make sure to take 2” to 4” inches of the cutting.

  • Grow the cuttings in a frame during the summer season.
  • Layer the plant with mulch in the fall season.
  • Once the plant is big enough, transfer them out in the permanent position.

Leucothoe Plant Pest or Diseases

The Drooping Leucothoe is deer resistant and doesn’t experience any severe disease or pests problems.

However, be on a lookout for scale insects, lace bugs, leaf gall, powdery mildew, tar spot, and Anthracnose spot.

In a humid environment, the plant might experience a leaf spot.

Is Leucothoe Toxic or Poisonous?

This plant is toxic and might prove fatal if ingested.

The plant also has a high flammability rating and shouldn’t be placed inside the house.

Leucothoe Plant Uses

This evergreen shrub works well as a single specimen when planted in containers.

It also looks stunning when used with other plants in borders, woodland gardens, rock gardens, on slopes, or as a ground cover.

It may be used as an under-planting for bigger shrubs or as a foundation plant.

The fantastic foliage of this plant looks wonderful with Checkerberry, Ling Heather, and Skimmia plants.

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