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If your garden soil is not acidic enough for pieris or you want some pots of colour on your patio in spring, then growing pieris Forest Flame in a container is for you. This article also applies to the many other varieties of pieris that are compact enough to grow in a large pot.
Pieris varieties for containers
Start by looking at the varieties of dwarf and compact pieris that are available. However, as this is a slow-growing shrub, some of the medium-size types are also suitable for growing in containers. One popular variety is Pieris Forest Flame with its white bell-shaped flowers and colourful leaves that turn from red to pink to cream to green. This variety has won the Award of Merit from the British Royal Horticultural Society.
Another popular container pieris is the variety pieris japonica. For example, the Prelude type of this has long sprays of pure white flowers set off against its dark green foliage. New leaves emerge in a bronze or red colour. Bees love this plant too. The Prelude has won awards from the British Royal Horticultural Society.
Preparing the Pieris Forest Flame container
Once you’ve chosen your pieris shrub, find a pot or container that is slightly larger than the one the plant comes in. Turn the pot over and check that there are quite a few drainage holes. Pieris plants, when waterlogged, are susceptible to fungal infections and diseases. The soil has to be well drained. If necessary, make some more holes for drainage in the bottom of the pot.
The next step is to prevent the draining holes from becoming clogged up with soil or roots. Put a few broken crockery over the holes, I have found that terracotta pots are cheap these days so I sometimes buy and brake these ups to use as crockery. The water can still drain through but this keeps the soil out. Putting the pot up on bricks or feet of some kind also helps with drainage.
Now select the best place for your pieris to grow. You need a sheltered spot out of the wind and that has dappled or partial shade.
The best soil for pieris
Part-fill the container with acidic soil along with ericaceous (acidic) compost. This creates the acidic environment that pieris love plus it’s full of the nutrients that the plant needs. Plant the root ball of the pieris so that that plant is the same level in the new soil/compost that it was in the original container – never plant the shrub deeper than this.
Pieris care and maintenance
Keep the plant well-watered until it’s become established and starts to produce new growth. At this point, you can look at giving it some fertiliser for acidic plants or topping it up with more ericaceous compost.
Remember that plants grown in containers tend to dry out quite quickly. Frequently check your pieris Forest Flame; if the soil a few inches down is dry, then water the plant. But make sure that excess water drains out the bottom of the container.
If you’re successful in growing your pieris, you will need to re-pot it every couple of years. Choose a larger container than the size of the rootball of the plant, and use fresh compost. Place the new container with the plant in the same spot as the old one was so the plant doesn’t experience environment shock. You can learn about feeding pieris in my guide here to keep them healthy.
When it comes to pruning, pieris don’t really need pruning except to control the overall size, you can learn more about pruning pieris here.
If you’re having problems with your pieris Forest Flame in a container, check out my article Pieris Plant Problems for the most common issues and what to do about them.