Thursday, December 15, 2011

Dusty Zenobia

Zenobia pulverulenta

A slow to moderate growing, upright, deciduous to semi-evergreen shrub, reaching up to 6 x 4 ( averaging only 3 x 4 ) feet, that is native to mountains in the southeast U.S. from Virginia south to South Carolina. Some records include: fastest growth rate - 2.5 feet; 10 years - 4 x 4 feet; largest on record - 13 x 13 feet.
The ovate to narrow-elliptical leaves are up to 3 inches in length.
The leaves are spirally arranged around the stem. The powdery blue foliage has long lasting, intense yellow to red autumn foliage color often persists into December or even most of the winter in mild climates.
The sweetly-fragrant, white, nodding, bell-shaped flowers, up to 0.5 x 0.5 inches, are borne on heads of up to 20 during late spring to early summer. The flowers resemble that of Lily of the Valley.
Hardy zones 5 to 8 ( tolerating -20 F on a protected site ) in partial shade ( tolerates sun if not reflected ) on consistently moist, cool, humus-rich, well drained, acidic soil. Generally east to grow; typical upland woodland conditions in the eastern U.S. are generally suitable, if you unsure about you soil conditions, just mix in a few bags of peat moss and leaf compost before planting. Mulch with bark and feed lightly with cottonseed meal during early May. Zenobia is the lone species in the Zenobia genus, it is part of the larger Ericaceae family which includes Rhododendrons and Azaleas. It also enjoys growing conditions similar to that of Rhodies and Azaleas. Dusty Zenobia grows wild in southern pine woods and does very well in these conditions, even where other plants will not.
Pruning can be done immediately after flowering but is rarely needed other than any shaping if desired.
Propagation can be achieved from seed, suckers, rooted layers or cuttings taken during early summer. Seed is easily sown immediately upon ripening on moist sphagnum. The seed does not need pretreatment.

Walter S. Judd @ USDA SCS. 1991. Southern wetland flora

* photos taken @ U.S. Botanical Garden, Wash., DC on Aug 25 2014

* historic archive photo

'Blue Sky'
Very blue foliage.

'Woodlander's Blue'
A selection with exceptionally blue or silvery-blue foliage that colors intensely during autumn.

* photos taken on May 27 2017 @ Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, Vienna, VA


  1. One of my favorite small shrubs, I grow Woodlander's Blue dusty zenobia in my Connecticut garden. I love the glaucus foliage and it has a woodsy, open shape that is nice. I don't get much fall color, but the leaves do bronze up a bit and hang on for winter. Love this plant!

    I am enjoying poring over your extensive library of plant profiles and pictures, and I look forward to each new one you post.

  2. Thank you! I look forward to posting much more in the upcoming new year.