Lyonia ovalifolia var. elliptica
Common Name: lyonia
Type: Broadleaf evergreen
Family: Ericaceae
Native Range: China, Japan, Taiwan, Himalayas
Zone: 6 to 8
Height: 3.00 to 12.00 feet
Spread: 3.00 to 12.00 feet
Bloom Time: May to June
Bloom Description: White
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Hedge, Flowering Tree, Naturalize
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Evergreen
Other: Winter Interest

Culture

Best grown in organically rich, acidic, consistently moist but reasonably well-drained soils in part shade. Tolerates full sun. Also tolerates some dry sandy habitats once established. Spreads by root suckers and rhizomes to form colonies. Winter hardy to USDA Zone 6.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Lyonia ovalifolia, commonly known as fetterbush, is a deciduous to evergreen shrub or small tree of the heath family that is native to forests, forest margins, ravines and mountain slopes in China and the Himalayas. It is commonly called fetterbush or staggerbush because of its dense sprawling growth habit which fetters (impedes) human/animal activity when plants grow together in thickets. Fetterbush typically grows to 3-6’ tall as an arching and sprawling shrub, but in optimum conditions can reach tree size of 20-30’ tall.

Notable features include: (a) leaves of variable shape ranging from ovate to elliptic to lanceolate to rounded (4-8” long) on short stalks with acute to long-pointed apices; (b) white tubular spring-blooming flowers (each to 3/8” long) arranged in one-sided horizontal axillary racemes (to 6” long); (c) woody five-parted seed capsules which develop in the leaf axils, eventually splitting open when ripe to release seeds; and (d) exfoliating bark on mature branches.

Synonymous with and formerly known as Andromeda ovalifolia.

Var. elliptica, in comparison to the straight species, has narrower, more pointed leaves and shorter flower racemes. Native to China and Japan. Varietal name suggests the leaves are narrower than the leaves typically found on the species.

Genus name honors gardener John Lyon (1765-1814).

Specific epithet comes from the Latin words ovalis meaning oval and folia meaning leaves in reference to the oval leaves of this plant.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Susceptible to leaf spot.

Garden Uses

Naturalize in areas with moist soils. Hedge. Shrub borders. Woodland margins. Dappled shade.