How to plant pieris japonica

Bring colour and texture to the landscape with a pieris japonica shrub. The clusters of fragrant pink or white flowers, which bloom in late winter or early spring, are shaped like lily-of-the-valley flowers, giving the plant its other name, lily-of-the-valley bush. Japanese pieris can reach heights of 8 to 12 feet and is one of the most popular ornamental flowering shrubs for the home landscape, according to Floridata.

Select an area with acidic, peaty soil. Plant pieris japonica in light, dappled shade in the south and in partial shade farther north. The soil should be well-drained and moist. Test the soil with a soil testing kit, which can be purchased at a nursery or home-and-garden store. Amend soil if needed based on the soil test results.

Dig a hole 1 to 2 feet larger than the diameter of the root ball. The depth should be the height of the root ball for bare-root, balled-and-burlapped and containerised shrubs. The depth of the hole in clay soil should allow one-third of the root ball to sit above ground level. Use the original soil to make a firmly packed mound in the centre of the hole for a bare root shrub only.

Remove all packaging material, ties, string, wire and plastic burlap around roots. If the shrub is in a plastic container, cut the pot down the side and remove, or turn the container upside down, tap it hard on the edge once or twice to loosen, and slide the shrub out.

Slice the root mass of a container shrub from top to bottom in four places going about an inch deep into roots. Cut an X shape in the bottom of the root mass. Remove as much of the packing material as possible without disturbing the root ball of a balled and burlapped shrub. Prune off any damaged roots of a bare root shrub.

Put the shrub into the planting hole. Fold natural burlap packing away from the root ball. Spread the roots of a bare root shrub out and drape them down the sides of the mound.

Mix one part sphagnum peat moss or compost to two parts original soil and mix well before filling the planting hole.

Put the amended soil back into the hole, filling it three-quarters of the way full. Fill the hole with water and let the water drain. Add more soil around shrub until the hole is completely filled.

Form a 2- to 3-inch rim of soil around the base of the shrub. It should be 2 to 3 feet away from base to make a watering basin. Do not make a watering basin around a shrub planted in clay soil.

Water the soil thoroughly, filling the watering basin. Japanese pieris should receive 1 inch of water per week from supplemental watering or rainfall during the summer and fall. A shrub in sandy soil should be watered twice a week, receiving 1 inch of water each time.

Spread 2 to 3 inches of mulch inside the watering basin. Keep mulch away from the base and stems of the shrub. If there is no basin, spread the mulch around the base of the shrub as usual.


Balled and burlapped trees can be planted at any time of the year. All other pieris japonica shrubs can be planted in the fall or in the spring after all threat of frost has passed. You can test soil drainage by digging a hole, filling it with water and letting it drain. Water that drains completely in six to eight hours has good drainage. Clay soil can be amended with compost to help drainage, or the shrub can be planted in a raised bed.


Keep the roots of bare root pieris japonica shrubs damp. Wrap the roots in wet burlap or moistened sphagnum peat moss. Do not mix peat moss with clay soil. Make sure burlap left around the roots isn't sticking up to avoid pulling water away from the roots after planting.

Things You'll Need

  • Soil testing kit
  • Shovel
  • Wire cutters (optional)
  • Scissors
  • Hand pruners
  • Sharp knife
  • Sphagnum peat moss or compost
  • Garden hose
  • Mulch
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Marie Louise is passionate about her writing, bringing personal knowledge and experience on Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, chronic pain conditions, parenting, research, alternative medicine and animals. Her work appears on several different websites.