Horticulture Magazine

Pieris ‘Forest Flame’ Plant Care & Growing Tips

red and green leaves of a forest flame bush

Pieris Forest Flame Overview

Official Plant NamePieris Forest Flame
Common Name(s)Pieris Floribunda
Plant TypeShrub / Hedging
Native AreaNorth America
Hardiness RatingH5
ToxicityAll Parts Poisonous
FoliageEvergreen. The young leaves are bright red; then transform from pink to green.
FlowersCream, bell-shaped
When To SowJune, September
Flowering MonthsApril, May, June
When To PruneMarch, April, June
Sunlight

Preferred
Full Sun / Partial Shade

Exposure
Sheltered

Size

Height
2.5 – 4M

Spread
1.5 – 2.5M

Bloom Time
Spring

Soil

Preferred
Loam, Sand

Moisture
Moist but well drained

pH
Acidic

Plants in the Pieris family are evergreen shrubs, known for their ornamental foliage and their exciting red, white, and green aesthetic.

They’re native to parts of Asia, North America, and, surprisingly, Cuba. Over the years, though, this plant has become a popular addition to British gardens, and it’s easy to see why: It’s attractive, it’s different, and it’s not overly fussy about where it grows.

red and green leaves; white flowers of the pieris forest flame shrub
Red, white, and green: Two thirds of a chameleon

If you’re interested in growing Pieris ‘forest flame’ in your garden, we’ve written this guide with you in mind. We’ll run through everything you need to know about the plant, including where to plant it, when to water, how to prune, pest control, and much more.

After reading, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge you need to get a Pieris ‘forest flame’ thriving in your garden. You’ll be able to enjoy its joyous displays of red, white, and green whenever you need a pick-me-up.

What is Pieris ‘forest flame’?

Pieris ‘forest flame’ is the common name for Pieris floribunda, one of seven types. Also in the family you’ll find cubensis, formosa, japonica, nana, phillyreifolia, and swinhoei.

While all Pieris are known for their red, white, and green, ‘forest flame’ is slightly darker than others. It’s a large evergreen shrub that will bring red flowers in spring, fading into pink, cream, then green throughout the year.

This plant is known as andromeda or fetterbush in some places, so you may see those names referred to in other guides or articles.

How to grow Pieris ‘forest flame’

Pieris ‘forest flame’ has received the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), indicating its suitability for growth in British gardens. This means the plant is a great choice for budding gardeners who want something attractive and rewarding, without being too much of a challenge to grow.

The first thing to decide when growing ‘forest flame’ is whether to start from seed or to buy a young plant from a nursery. For seed, you’ll need to pick up a packet from a garden shop or get a handful from someone you know with a mature plant.

Young Pieris ‘forest flame’ plants are available for sale from nurseries, too. Your choice will determine a few things later in the guide, so keep that in mind.

What you need to know

Pieris ‘forest flame’ is fairly easy to grow if you cater to its needs. The plant takes between 10 and 20 years to reach its full height, which will usually clock in around 2.5 to 4 metres. In terms of spread, you should expect about 1.5 – 2.5 metres at full maturity.

tall pieris bush with blue sky in background
This fella can get pretty big!

‘Forest flame’ is one of the bigger Pieris plants, meaning you may prefer a smaller variety if you’re working with a more compact garden space.

This plant is a beacon for bees, and its pollen-rich flowers will attract plenty of these buzzing boys to your garden. In our opinion, this is an asset rather than a drawback: Bee populations are in decline, and they especially struggle in urban environments, meaning they need as much help as they can get! Bees won’t sting unless very provoked, and watching them go about their buzzy business is a relaxing, almost therapeutic way to spend time in your garden.

It’s also important to note that Pieris ‘forest flame’ is toxic to cats and dogs! Make sure that your plant is out of reach of your pets or your neighbours’ pets, and if you do think an animal has ingested some of the plant, call your vet immediately. Symptoms to look out for include vomiting, diarrhoea, lethargy, lots of saliva, general malaise, and more.

When to plant ‘forest flame’

If you’re planting out from seed, it’s best to start the plant in a container. To do this, soak your seeds in water for 24 hours and discard any that float. With the rest, fill a container with soil and place the seed on top, then sprinkle a little extra soil to cover but not obscure light.

Then cover the pot with plastic and leave in a warm room away from direct sunlight. You should see a sprout within a month or so, which means you’re ready to plant out.

The next stage is the same whether you’re continuing growth from seed, or planting out a brought plant. In early spring, dig a small hole in your garden about the size of the container your Pieris is growing in. Then transfer the plant across, pat down with soil, water gently, and leave to settle in!

Where to plant it

Pieris plants like to grow in full sun or partial shade. They’re happy with any aspect except north-facing, and prefer to be sheltered.

One area where ‘forest flame’ is fussy, is soil pH. This plant will only thrive in acidic soil, so take special note and ensure your flowerbed contains the right type of soil.

The RHS recommends this plant for borders and beds, low maintenance banks and slopes, informal patio areas, courtyards, containers, and more. In short, it lends itself well to a wide variety of settings.

Watering

Pieris ‘forest flame’ needs a hand to get established, and this is when you’ll be watering it most often – every week or so. Once established, the plant is much happier to do its own thing, and will only need your help during particularly dry spells. During heatwaves, drought, or just hot British summer, water regularly.

healthy forest flame bush with deep red leaves
Getting watering right is vital for the healthiest growth

Make sure not to overwater your ‘forest flame’ – this could end up dousing it!

Soil nutrition

If you planted your ‘forest flame’ into soil that wasn’t strongly acidic, you may need to reduce the pH levels. This can be done by adding special fertiliser for plants that like acidic soil, or by adding pine needles when giving your plant its yearly mulching.

If you’re not sure where to come across pine needles, we’d probably recommend the fertiliser option. Give your plant a dose in the topsoil each spring to ensure it remains well-nourished for the following season.

Pruning

As a slow-growing plant, you won’t find Pieris ‘forest flame’ too demanding in terms of pruning. The usual plant maintenance tips apply: Remove dead flowers and broken branches, and prune immediately after flowering if you want to do so to keep your plant in a certain shape. While not necessary, leaving optional pruning too late can damage the plant and prevent flowering next year.

Most gardeners advise leaving ‘forest flame’ to do its thing, as pruning can often do more harm than good, and it can take a few years for flowers to come back in full force.

Pieris ‘forest flame’ is in the RHS’ pruning group 8, which they state means pruning immediately after flowering. To find out more click here.

Pest control!

There’s only a tiny handful of plants that attract zero pests, and sadly ‘forest flame’ isn’t one of them. This plant is prone to a few pesky visitors who can cause varying degrees of damage. Here’s what to look for and how to hopefully avoid –

Pieris lacebug

This critter is so fond of Pieris, that it’s named after it. And despite only making its first UK appearance in 1998, it’s become a mainstay in our gardens ever since.

The lacebug is easily identifiable by the delicate lacy pattern on its wings. You may notice the bugs directly, or you may see the evidence of their visit: Coarse mottling, bleached yellow leaves, leaf drop, and brown spots on the leaf underside.

If you suspect an infestation, try first to encourage natural predators like birds, ladybirds, and wasps. Each will be tempted to eat the lacebugs, hopefully nipping your infestation in the bud.

Should pest control not work, there is a selection of pesticides available that can help. Be careful not to spray pesticides onto flowering plants, as this can cause harm to bees and pollinators that visit.

Phytophthora

This blight causes root rot which, as you can probably guess, wreaks havoc on plants. Once this fungal organism takes hold of a root, there’s no way to save the plant. At this stage, you have to destroy it and replace the soil to prevent further spread.

Prevention, then, is the cure. You want to make sure your soil is well-drained, as phytophthora thrives in damp, water-logged soil.

The symptoms are similar to those of waterlogging and drought,  so it can be hard to distinguish definitively. Wilt, dieback, and fading foliage are all indicators that your plant may have a case of phytophthora.

Leaf spot

Another fungal infection, this time causing brown blemishes or ‘spots’ on leaves. Again, overly moist soil is a high risk factor, as is moisture remaining on the leaves themselves.

To reduce the risk of leaf spot, water the soil rather than the entire plant. If you can’t help watering the whole plant (with a hose, for example) then do it early in the morning – this will give the leaves time to dry off throughout the day.

If your ‘forest flame’ does get hit with leaf spot, you can choose to use organic treatment or harsher fungicides. Heed our earlier warning about not damaging pollinators!

Passion’s bright ‘forest flame’

By now, you should have a pretty good understanding of what it takes to grow Pieris ‘forest flame’ in your garden. This is an attractive and rewarding plant that brings a veritable medley of colour to any outdoor space, and it’s easy to make it thrive in a British backyard.

This guide has outlined all the things you need to get your ‘forest flame’ thriving. We’ve covered basic plant information, when to plant, where to plant, how to keep watered and nourished, pruning, pests, and more! Now all you need to do is head to a garden store to buy some seeds, or find a friend with a thriving ‘forest flame’ and convince them to give you a handful.

We wish you the best of luck with your new Pieris!

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