The plume bush is an ornament for gardens and terraces. Its white flowers smell delicately of honey and in autumn its leaves turn a bright yellow, orange and even red. The graceful shrub belongs to the witch hazel family. It is listed as a separate genus, which, however, consists of only two different species. These include the Fothergilla major, Greater Plumebush, and the smaller Fothergilla gardenii, the Alder-leaved Plumebush, which are very similar except for size. The plume bushes are deciduous and grow only slowly, the basic shoots are dense and upright. With good care, the plants can grow up to 2.5 meters high, depending on the species.

Location and plant substrate

The plume bush does not tolerate heat or prolonged drought. Therefore, it should not stand in the blazing midday heat, but should have some shade during this time. However, if the location is too shady, the flowering and the bright autumn colors may fail to materialize. Therefore, care must be taken to ensure that the location has sufficient sunlight. With the right intensity and duration of sun exposure, not only the inflorescences develop better, but also the autumn colors. A location near the edge of a wood is ideal, since in most cases the soil is humus-rich. Because the Fothergilla bothshallow as well as deep roots, the location must also have sufficient space on all sides and directions. Damage caused by the effects of the weather, for example heavy rain, hailstorms, snowfall, persistent frost and sunburn can damage the branches and leaves of the shrubs and cause disease.

  • Loves sunny to partially shaded locations
  • A sandy loam soil is ideal
  • Slightly acidic plant substrate supports growth
  • Optimum pH between 6.5 and 7.5
  • Prefer sheltered locations to prevent weather damage
  • Avoid midday heat and places that are too dry
  • Enrich soil with peat

watering and fertilizing

The soil should always be sufficiently moist, especially during long dry periods in the summertime, the plume bush should be watered extensively and regularly. The growth of the shrubs is supported by a cyclic addition of peat and they can develop better. We also recommend adding peaty soil. On the one hand, it supplies important nutrients and, on the other hand, regulates the required moisture in the long term. Fertilizer should be applied immediately after winter and continued until autumn. Then the Fothergilla can form magnificent flowers and leaves.

  • Regular watering, never let the soil dry out completely
  • Always keep the root ball moist
  • Water extensively and for a long time at periodic time intervals
  • Fertilize in spring and summer, depending on plant needs
  • Fertilize more in nutrient-poor soil
  • A special fertilizer for rhododendrons is ideal
  • Adding organic materials, such as compost and bark mulch, improves the nutrient content

cutting and overwintering

The Fothergilla is extremely frost hardy and withstands the harsh winters of the local latitudes without any problems. With the right preparation for the cold winter season, the shrub will bloom again next spring and spread its lovely scent. For healthy growth and straight growth, the plume bush should be pruned either in late autumn, in winter or at the beginning of spring. If the plume bush sprouts profusely, it can be pruned out after the flowering period. For the first time, however, the pruning should only take place in the second year of life, since the shrub only recovers very slowly from the cut and is relatively slow-growing. Extreme pruning should be avoided entirely, as this poses a great danger to the fothergilla and can damage the plant severely and even irreversibly.

  • Hardy shrub plant
  • Very hardy, tolerates temperatures down to -18° C
  • Cover with needle brushwood or mulch to protect against cold and heavy snowfall
  • Lime coating of the stem prevents young plants from cracking due to extreme sub-zero temperatures
  • Remove dead, crossed or crooked branches in autumn at the latest
  • Thin out after flowering and only after the second year

Growth, bark, leaves and flowers

The plume shrubs grow only slowly compared to other plants, but depending on the species they can grow well over 2 meters high. The growth width is up to 2 meters, a circumstance that should be considered before planting, so that the plant has enough space to spread. With age, the bark of the shrubs loses its initially green color and becomes very even. The leaves are simply shaped and have a rich dark green color, which turns to a brightly colored hue in autumn. The leaves are arranged systematically, with a wide shape, the upper half of the leaf is provided with a coarse row of serrations.

The fothergilla is hermaphroditic and has both annual and perennial stems, both of which can bear flowers. The delicate and sweet fragrance of these flowers is the main reason for many gardeners to plant them in their home garden. The flowers have an unusual shape resembling a bottle brush, which is the main reason for the special naming.

  • Growth height between 0.70 and 2.50 meters depending on the species
  • Growth is about 1-2 meters in width
  • Light gray and smooth bark
  • Alternating foliage
  • Deciduous leaves with an elliptical leaf shape
  • Simple leaf structure with bare surface
  • White, bell-shaped flowers, approx. 5 cm long
  • Spike-like arrangement of buds
  • Blossoms smell lovely with a honey note
  • Flowering time is from the end of April to the beginning of May
  • Flowering before or at the same time as the leaves sprout
  • Fissured fruit capsule
  • Brown fruits up to 15 centimeters long
  • Autumn color of the leaves: carmine, orange and yellow, with great luminosity

propagation and implantation

Propagating the Fothergilla is usually a little more difficult and is not always crowned with success. The plume shrubs can be propagated as early as autumn by sowing seeds in a separate cold frame. Otherwise, propagation is carried out by cuttings or with sinkers during the summer months. A previously grown shrub from a specialist shop should be planted either in autumn or in spring.

  • Spring planting is ideal
  • Loosen the top layer of soil to improve permeability
  • Planting distances of approx. one meter
  • Dig a planting hole about twice the size of the root ball
  • Keeping in planters for the balcony and terrace possible
  • Cut off lignified pieces as cuttings after flowering
  • Stick into the ground in a partially shaded spot
  • Water cuttings regularly and well
  • Transfer the rooted cutting to its final location the following spring
  • Sinker: Sink strong side shoots into the ground
  • Cover generously with soil and keep watering well
  • Separate the rooting sinker from the mother plant next spring
  • Plant the young plant at the desired destination

origin and species

The plume bush belongs to the Hamamelidaceae family, or witch hazel, and is native to southeastern North America. Fothergilla is the name of the genus, in homage to the English-born physician John Fothergilla, who was a passionate gardener. The genus contains only two different species, the Fothergilla major and the Fothergilla gardenii. The two species are very similar in shape and color, the main difference lies in the achievable size of the plant. In gardening jargon, the two are also called large plume shrubs and alder-leaved plume shrubs. Fothergilla gardenii is significantly smaller, but has a similar growth, leaf and flower shape to its big brother.

  • Originates from the southeastern United States
  • Large Fothergilla major grows well over 2 meters high
  • Dwarf Fothergilla gardenii only about 0.80 meters high
  • Alder-leaved plume bush grows significantly lower, lying and stocky

Garden design and possible planting neighbors

The tall Fothergilla major is ideal as a single shrub for flower beds and borders. The shrub can develop its full beauty especially in themed garden areas, for example in moor gardens. Due to its colour, it also looks very good in the vicinity of plantings with other flowering plants. The small growth form of the Fothergilla gardenii loosens up low and vigorously flowering rhododendron groups due to its veil-like formation. The white flowers also shine beautifully in the vicinity of delicately blooming and purple lilac bushes. Since the soil and water requirements of the shrubs are relatively similar, the care of the mixed beds is very easy.

  • Suitable for borders with astilbes , atropurpureum, ferns, lilacs and carpet dogwoods
  • Fits in heather and rock gardens , hedge plantings and for woody borders
  • White-flowered plume bushes harmonize especially well with colored flowering plants
  • Attractive as a cemetery green next to tombstones
  • In an exposed solitary position, especially in autumn, it is an eye-catcher due to the discolored leaves
  • Intense red, yellow or orange colored leaves shine during the autumn months
  • Frequently visited by bees and bumblebees, ideal for pollination

diseases and pests

If the location is too dry, the shrubs will wither and then die due to the lack of water. That’s why you always have to make sure you drink enough fluids, especially in hot summer periods with little rain. Fothergilla is relatively resistant to disease and pest infestation. With the right preventive and countermeasures, these can usually be combated without the use of harmful pesticides. Aphids can simply be washed off and hosed off.

Infestation with mites

  • Feed on plant sap and tissues
  • Indicators are round and yellowish discoloration of the leaves
  • Fine webs are indicators of spider mites
  • Spray regularly with moisture and provide shade to combat
  • Chemical control agents are acaricides, use only in extreme emergencies

The plume bush begs the senses with its sweet and lovely scent and attractive inflorescences. In spring and autumn, the Fothergilla flowers white with a deciduous leaf shoot. In autumn, the leaves shine in magnificent shades of color from yellow to orange to red. If it gets enough hours of sunshine with a little shade and enough watering, it will bloom continuously and grow slowly but persistently in height. The large Fothergilla major is particularly suitable as the center of a bed. The smaller alder-leaved plume shrub combines well with other flowering plants.

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