Plants of Promise: Dwarf Fothergilla

Fothergilla gardenii bloomLatin Name: Fothergilla gardenii
Common Name: Dwarf Fothergilla

Description: Small, slow-growing deciduous shrub; 3' H x 4' W; blooms in mid-to-late spring
Cultivation: Full sun to part shade (best flowering and fall color in full sun) 

Where I Found It: Flower World in the fall of 2007 for $13

Why I Love It: I discovered this interesting plant when I was in college studying horticulture and we would traipse all over campus (and all over Seattle) identifying plants and learning about their features and cultivation requirements. Ever since then, I have kept a list of "favorite plants" that caught my attention during those years, and the Dwarf Fothergilla is one of them. When I was looking for plants to put in the ground at my new house a couple years ago, I was thrilled to find a fothergilla at Flower World and snapped it right up.

What makes this plant so special? First of all, it produces beautiful and unique-looking white flowers in the spring. As you can see from the picture above, they very much resemble the blooms of a bottlebrush plant. And what's not to love about branches laden with blossoms like these?Fothergilla gardenii in bloom

The foliage is pleasant in the spring and summer but actually quite stunning in the fall when it turns brilliant shades of red, orange, yellow, and purple—often with multiple colors in each single leaf. Sadly, I don't have a nice picture of the fall color, but here is a good one of the foliage in spring:Fothergilla gardenii foliage

Overall, the plant seems to have an open, airy growth pattern (which makes it a bit hard to photograph!). Here is my little fothergilla, hanging out in my container garden:

He is still rather small, as he was only in the ground a couple months before I had to dig him up and transplant him back to a pot (due to the sewer line being replaced at my house). I have enjoyed his profuse display of blooms this spring and am looking forward to his brilliant color in the fall.

As a funny side note, I refer to this plant as "he" because his name, Fothergilla, always makes me think of Father Gilla—as in, a priest named Gilla!

So if you are looking for a reliable little shrub with unique blooms and fabulous fall color, Fothergilla gardenii might just be the plant for you!