The photo in the featured image is from John Ruter, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org
In May many of our plants are blooming, making it very enjoyable to be outside. A great plant for May bloom is a plant called beautybush. This is not to be confused with beautyberry which is a plant we grow for purple berries in the late summer.
Beautybush, Kolkwitzia amabilis, is a vase-shaped, flowering shrub. It grows up to 6-10 feet tall and wide. It blooms in May to early June with pink flowers that have yellow in the throat of the flowers. The flowers are bell-shaped and held in clusters throughout the entire plant. Following the bloom, the persistent fruits appear as a ¼” long dehiscent capsule that is bristly. The seeds last on the plant, are found in clusters, and are described by Michael Dirr to look “like a fuzzy chicken”. Beautybush has exfoliating bark as it ages. The leaves are opposite, simple, 1-3 inches long and ¾-2 inches wide with a point on the end. The leaves are dark green in summer turning yellowish to reddish in the fall.
There are varieties of beautybush that may be more desirable for your landscape. ‘Pink Cloud’ is more floriferous than the straight species and the flowers are a deeper pink color. ‘Rosea’ has more reddish pink flowers.
Beautybush is very adaptable and can be planted in many different growing conditions. It prefers to be planted in well-drained soils in full sun. It can be grown in part shade, but that will reduce the flowering. It is also adaptable to different pH levels in the soil. Beautybush is tolerant to deer, clay soil, and black walnut toxicity. It can be pruned back to the ground in a rejuvenation cutting every few years, if necessary. Rejuvenation cutting can be done in late winter or just after flowering. Plants bloom on old wood, so pruning in the late winter can reduce flower production, they are best pruned just after blooming to maintain full flower production. It is a member of the honeysuckle family and is closely related to weigela which blooms similarly.
Beautybush can be planted in lines as a border plant or hedge. They will make a good privacy fence and can be planted along the foundation. They are not typically used as a specimen plant because of the growing nature of the plant. It is a good attractant plant for hummingbirds and provides good winter interest.
Beautybush is a great plant for a hedgerow or along the inside edges of a windbreak. It has amazing flowers during May and June that can bring hummingbirds to your landscape. It is also great for use on an acreage with black walnut trees, because it is not affected by the juglone that is toxic to many other plants. It is also tolerant to deer and clay soils, making it a great choice. So the next time you are looking for a good, large, flowering shrub, look at Beautybush.