April: Dwarf Fothergilla

April's plant of the month is dwarf fothergilla, one of my all-time favorite shrubs.  Its fragrant puff-ball flowers emerge in April before the leaves unfold, and the blossoms remain until May.

Image source: Maria Gulley

Image source: Maria Gulley

I could have chosen dwarf fothergilla for many different months. The leaves have a unique scalloped shape and retain a lovely green with a pale underside through the summer. In the fall, the shrub practically bursts into flame with a range of yellows, oranges, and reds that changes with sun exposure. Dwarf fothergilla is native to the southeastern US, but it grows excellently here in Indiana as well. Its scientific name, Fothergilla gardenii, has an interesting back story. The genus name, Fothergilla, refers to John Fothergill, an English physician who promoted native US plants in England. The specific epithet, gardenii, pays tribute to Alexander Garden, a Scottish physician who originally introduced the plant to England (history from Missouri Botanical Garden).


Image source: commons.wikimedia.org (by Malte)

Image source: commons.wikimedia.org (by Malte)

Common Name: Dwarf Fothergilla

Scientific Name: Fothergilla gardenii

Notable Varieties: 'Mt. Airy' (hybrid, larger than species), 'Blue Mist' (bluish summer foliage)

Light: full sun to part shade

Size: 1.5-3' tall, 2-4' wide

Soil: average, well-drained

Blooms: white, April-May

Other Notes: fragrant flowers and excellent fall color; prune root suckers to avoid spreading into a colony

See other plants of the month.

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