Guidelines for growing bountiful bluebeard shrubs

When summer sets in and spring flowers fade, bluebeard fills the void with abundant, dependable blue blossoms that appear until fall. Follow these guidelines to get the best from this low-maintenance late bloomer.

Guidelines for growing bountiful bluebeard shrubs

Where to plant bluebeard

A light and airy-looking one metre (three foot) tall shrub with small, pointed, gray-green leaves lined by clusters of flowers, bluebeard more resembles a bushy perennial than a shrub. Some ideas for planting include:

  • Silhouette bluebeard against a weathered wooden barn or fence
  • Let it spread beside a rock outcrop
  • Plant it in long rows backed by dark green conifers
  • Put bluebeard's soft colour and texture to work neutralizing brighter bloomers in a mixed bed
  • Use it as a formal hedge or path edging

Use it to attract butterflies

  • Beyond being beautiful and dependable, bluebeard also attracts bees and butterflies
  • Its blue blossoms are among the garden's most powerful butterfly magnets
  • Place bluebeard within easy view of seating areas, where you can spend summer afternoons watching butterflies romancing the blossoms

Choose your blues

Different cultivars boast a variety of blue hues, so you can choose cultivars with a favourite colour or mix different shades.

  • Most cultivars have flowers that are a medium shade of blue, such as those of 'Arthur Simmonds', which ranks among the best performers. In fact, 'Arthur Simmonds' is often the plant you get when nursery plants are simply labeled "caryopteris" or "bluebeard."
  • If dark blue-purple flowers are your goal, 'Dark Knight' or 'Kew Blue' can provide them.
  • With golden rather than gray-green foliage contrasting against the blossoms, 'Worcester Gold' presents a very different picture.
  • And if you want a dwarf growth habit, opt for 60-centimetre-tall (25-inch-tall)  'Heavenly Blue', whose flowers are a bright blue.

These cultivars are all derived from a hybrid between Caryopteris incana and C. mongolica. One parent, C. incana, is definitely garden worthy in Zones 8 or warmer. It is slightly taller and less refined in habit than the hybrids, but its large, dark blue flowers are worth finding a place for in the border.

Get growing

  • This is one of the easiest shrubs to grow in a sunny location with well-drained soil. Pests ignore it, but chronically wet soil can cause root rot
  • A willing transplanter, bluebeard shows new growth a few weeks after planting if you add a sparse handful of a balanced fertilizer and occasionally irrigate
  • Leave the brown flower bracts intact for winter interest, then prune plants back hard first thing in the spring so that only a few centimetres (or inches) of woody stem remain above ground to initiate new growth
  • Bluebeard flowers on new wood, so spring pruning encourages flower and foliage density as well as removing any frost injury
  • Given a long growing season, light pruning in midsummer stimulates a second flush of flowers

With little effort you can enjoy the benefits of this hardy, easy-growing shrub. And, should you brush against bluebeard on a warm, sunny day, a pleasant herbal fragrance, reminiscent of sage, will be your reward.

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