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A wonderful foundation plant, andromeda features many seasons of interest, which also allow it to be used as a specimen plant as well. Also known as lily-of-the-valley bush, andromeda bears pendulous chains of puckered blooms in spring that closely resemble lily-of-the-valley flowers. While they may not be as intoxicating as the short groundcover perennial, they do have a pleasingly sweet, light fragrance of their own. If the bountiful blooms weren’t enough, andromeda also has extremely ornamental new growth that can be in glowing shades of orange and red.
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While mainly grown for their showy clusters of blooms in spring, andromeda also has several other noteworthy characteristics. The tough, glossy foliage of andromeda is evergreen, which makes these plants a wonderful backdrop for other flowers and smaller plants to show upon. As the new growth emerges in spring, there are several varieties that have bright red new growth, adding another round of color on top of the showy blooms. The flower buds of andromeda are also made in late summer into the fall, and held on through the winter. While not especially colorful at this point, the small blooms add some winter interest to the plants as well.
Andromeda Care Must-Knows
Andromeda is very similar in care to many other broad leaf evergreens like kalmia, rhododendrons, and camellia. The most important thing with all of these plants is that they require acidic soils in order to thrive. In areas with more alkaline soils, andromeda is in for a tough life, and in many cases, they may continue to decline year after year. If you simply must have an andromeda shrub in your garden and they won't do in your soils, some of the dwarf varieties can perform quite well in containers where you can more closely manage acidic soil conditions.
Along with acidic soils, andromeda also requires well-drained soils. These somewhat persnickety plants won't tolerate wet soils, but also don't like it to be consistently dry either. Similarly, they are particular about how much sun they receive as well. While full sun will provide the best emerging foliage color and most amount of blooms, it can also be too stressful for andromeda in warmer climates. Giving andromeda afternoon shade can be extremely beneficial to help relieve some of their stress and create a healthy plant. It is also important to plant these in a sheltered location for winter protection as well. If they are too exposed to drying winter winds, it can severely desiccate the evergreen foliage and cause browning and tip dieback as well.
With their tough evergreen foliage, andromeda is fairly resistant to pests but there are a few things that you may see. The biggest problem with andromeda is lacebugs. These annoying pests are more a nuisance than anything else. You typically notice the damage before you even realize they are there. They use their piercing mouthparts to drink the contents of the leaves cells, so you will notice stippling on the foliage causing speckles of dead spots. Lacebugs typically hide out on the bottom of the leaves, so check there first if you suspect they may be snacking on your plants. This feeding pattern also looks very similar to damage from spider mites and a few other bugs, so it's best to investigate and make sure lacebugs are the culprit before you treat for anything. While they can cause unsightly damage, it usually is not substantial enough to cause permanent damage to the plants, so if you can bear it, just leave them be.