Japanese Andromeda is a common name that is associated with this shrub as well as many of the varietal offerings of Pieris. Valley Valentine is an appropriate name for this offering as the flowers remind me of little hearts and the colour of course is predominantly red, not to mention that they bloom early in the spring. Perhaps in some mild parts of the country, they may blossom around Valentine’s Day, not a chance in my garden! The Andromeda portion of the name and its association with this plant escapes me. In Greek mythology Andromeda was to be sacrificed to appease the god Poseidon. The name is a latin-ization from the Greek which translates to “be mindful of a man”… it will take me some time to figure this one out.
Pieris prefer to grow in an acidic soil that is rich in humus, organic matter and provides reasonable drainage. Sounds like a tall order but it really is quite simple to develop, if your soil is not acidic. Apply well rotted manure(s) and/or compost into the soil base and dig it in well until it results in a ‘fluffy’ light texture. This porous medium will of course compact once watered so bear this in mind when you position and plant your Pieris. Container grown specimens are my preference as the soil medium has already been managed, so you can replicate it easily in the native soil. Additionally, the root mass is usually very well developed with oodles of smaller, feeder roots to the outside of the soil mass. Personally, I do not disturb
the root mass when I plant, many gardeners suggest this, but I have much better success leaving the root mass as it is. A typical reaction when gardeners realize that the plant requires an acidic condition is to feed with a commercially prepared acid feed. These work remarkably well but amending the soil as I have suggested will give you long lasting results. The plant will not shock into growth too rapidly and once established, you may feed to supplement.
Valley Valentine to my optics, has a tendency to be a little ‘disheveled’ in appearance, unlike its diminutive sisters. This is not at all a negative thing, just an observation and a trigger to remind you to consider the location. Valley Valentine grows to an average of 2.5 M and about 1.5 M wide. As an added bonus, foliage is dense to ground level so facer plants are not necessary in front to hide a bare trunk. You may consider grouping this shrub with other plants that may have coarser foliage, such as a Magnolia, so that the fine foliage of Valley Valentine is accentuated. Should you find that your specimen requires pruning, do so just after flowering, removing the spent floral stalks.
The reason here is that this plant, as all Pieris, produces flower buds for the following season in late summer. You won’t want to diminish the following year’s display by improper pruning time. Pieris should enjoy a good long garden life, many up to 40 years… again a shoulder tap as to where to site the plant for the long term. On that note, Pieris will die if their feet are in standing water so remember to afford good drainage, springs can be very wet afterall. Sun is preferred with some shade during the hottest/sunniest part of the day is ideal, however, they are rather forgiving.
Keep in mind that this species is not a native to North America so a thick mulch is often suggested to help with extending hardiness in colder regions. Parts of this shrub are toxic to animals and as such they receive a noteworthy appellation as being deer-proof. Truth is that the deer will search out other tastier treats before nibbling on Pieris. In that it is toxic, care should be given if planting in location where young children or pets may be tempted to munch. However, having said that, it is to my mind uncommon that plants would be something that children would munch on, but the warning is out there.