Plants to Love: Rainbow Drooping Leucothoe (Leucothoe fontanesiana ‘Rainbow’)

I know you’re wondering, so let’s get this out of the way: it’s loo-kow-thow-ee. You only have to say the name once though, when you’re looking for it at the nursery, and then you can call it anything you like. “That gorgeous variegated thing” is what most people call it. Andrew of Garden Smackdown suggests “Lew”.

Whatever. It’s low-maintenance, very deer-resistant, and seems to be happy in a wide range of light conditions from full sun to shade as long as it’s given regular water, acid soil, and a thick layer of mulch to keep its roots cool.

It’s hardy in USDA Zones 5-9 and gets about 3-5 feet tall. I’ve seen suggestions that you can keep it pruned to as low as 18″ (they do spring back fine from hard pruning), but to me the nicest thing about this plant is that loosely drooping habit. You want something you can shear, get a boxwood, ya know?

I think it looks best with other woodland plants, or Japanese plants like Cryptomeria and Japanese Maples (you can see it above with ‘Rozanne’ Hardy Cranesbill and ‘Villa Taranto’ Japanese Maple).

Have you planted Rainbow Leucothoe? What do you pair it with?

2 responses to “Plants to Love: Rainbow Drooping Leucothoe (Leucothoe fontanesiana ‘Rainbow’)”

  1. Gen, I love ‘Lew’. I have ‘Lew’ planted in a variety of locations around my CT (zone 6) garden and it’s thriving everywhere. Variegated foliage, deer resistance (not even a little bit of browsing) and tolerance to a wide range of shade makes ‘Lew’ a winner in my book. Not that you would have this problem, but ‘Lew’ is one of the first shrubs I check after a heavy snowfall. The branches tend to get mushed down from the weight of the snow so I typically try to brush of the snow if possible. The foliage does look great against of blanket of snow!

  2. Debbie, fantastic advice as always. You’re totally right – never had the snow issue here! 🙂
    I’m so glad to hear Lew is making a splash in your garden as well.