Plant of the Month for October, 2020

Caryopteris Snow Fairy header
Caryopteris divaricata 'Snow Fairy'

 (kar-ee-OP-ter-iss  dy-vair-ih-KAY-tuh)

General Information:

Caryopteris divaricata ‘Snow Fairy is an elegant plant that requires almost no maintenance, has few if any pests and looks good most of the year. It should be in every garden that matches its hardiness zone.

Caryopteris divaricata ‘Snow Fairy’: photo by Robert Pavlis

Caryopteris divaricata ‘Snow Fairy:photo by Robert Pavlis

You might know genus Caryopteris as shrubs, but this one is an herbaceous perennial. I have grown it for years and did not know this until I wrote this article. In my zone 5 garden it looks like a shrub that gets killed to the ground in winter, similar to the butterfly bush. It produces very stiff strong stems that keep their shape all year.

It is a bit slow to get going in spring, but by early summer you will have a nice clump of variegated foliage. It keeps growing all summer and never loses its color as so many variegated plants do. There is another cultivar called Caryopteris divaricata 'Blue Butterflies' which has green leaves but much larger flowers. Snow Fairy is a much better choice.

Caryopteris divaricata ‘Snow Fairy’: photo by Robert Pavlis

Caryopteris divaricata ‘Snow Fairy:photo by Robert Pavlis

It does produce flowers in fall most years but due to their small size they really don’t add too much to the plant. You grow this one for foliage. Give it full sun or a bit of shade and don’t worry about watering it; it is quite drought tolerant once established. It will not tolerate a wet site.

The only maintenance I do is to cut it back to the ground in spring. Common names include blue spirea, blue mist shrub, and blue mist spirea.

Since I didn’t know it was a perennial, I took cuttings in midsummer just like my other shrubs and they rooted fairly easily. Spring tip cuttings are reported to work even better.

Caryopteris Snow Fairy flower

Caryopteris divaricata ‘Snow Fairy:photo by Robert Pavlis

Life Cycle: perennial

Height: 100cm (3.5 ft)

Bloom Time: fall

Natural Range: Himalayas (for the species)

Habitat: sunny dry slopes

Synonyms:  Tripora divaricata


Light: full sunto part shade

Soil: well drained

Water: dry

USDA Hardiness Zone: 5- 9

Propagation: division, cuttings

Seedex availability (ORG&HPS annual Seed Exchange): never

Robert Pavlis