Enkianthus campanulatus 'Red Bells'
Pronounced: en-kee-AN-thus kam-pan-yoo-LAH-tus
Sunset zones: 2-9, 14-21.
USDA zones: 5-8.
Heat zones: 8-4.
Height: 8-12 feet (2.4-3.6 m).
Width: 4-6 feet (1.2-1.8 m).
Racemes resembling corymbs hold bell-shaped creamy-white-overlaid-with-red flowers.
Whorled branches hold toothed, obovate, elliptic leaves.
Full sun to partial shade.
Fertile, humus rich, moist, well-drained soil. This is not a drought tolerant shrub.
An acidic plant fertilizer is usually recommended; however, our soil in the maritime Pacific Northwest is normally acidic enough as is. A soil test is recommended to determine if you need to adjust the ph level. Side-dress shrubs with compost and a complete organic fertilizer in spring. If soil is not acidic enough, use a cottonseed meal for the nitrogen in your organic fertilizer mix.
Semi-ripe cuttings in midsummer.
This shrub needs little to no pruning; however, it takes well to pruning attention. After flowers are spent, prune away dead wood and clean out branch unions.
Pests and Diseases:
No serious pests or diseases.
Rainy Side Notes
Rainy Side Notes
This has to be one of my favorite shrubs in the garden, or at least one of the oldest ones there. I dug it up from my old garden, carrying it to the new one over 13 years* ago. This year, I've fallen in love again. The Enkianthus, growing quietly out of view, was unveiled when a laurel that became too big for the space was removed. Although it was out of sight and out of mind for a few years, and looking slightly bedraggled, a little pruning brought it back to shape.
It now stands eight-feet tall next to the fence line. Its racemes overflow with beautiful pendent bells every spring. In autumn, its deciduous foliage shines in bright crimson, orange and burgundy hues. In partial shade, fall color is lessoned considerably. The remaining part of the year, its dull green foliage makes it fade into the background. I plan to remedy the shrub's doldrums by growing a summer blooming, six-foot tall clematis vine up its framework, giving it another season of interest.
Enkianthus are slow growers; after 15 years, mine reached its present eight-foot height. This plant can grow in a light woodland garden or thrive in full sun in the Pacific Northwest. There are only 10 species in the genus originating from Asia and Japan. The species, E. campanulatas, is often used for bonsai specimens.
The shrub is reportedly deer resistant and has very few problems with disease or insects. In my garden, it has been a carefree shrub. However, this is not a drought tolerant plant; I give mine about an inch of water a week from July until September. Of course, in partial shade, its water needs are less than when growing in full sun.
*As of the initial writing in May 2010.
Photographed in author's garden.