Georgia Gardener Newsletter Cool Plant: January 11,2007

Gaultheria procumbens

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Species Native Range: Eastern United States
Hardiness: USDA Zones 4-7
Mature Size: 3-6 inches tall, spreading
Exposure: Partial to Full Shade
Soil: Acidic, highly organic soil that is moist but well-drained
Ease of Culture: Moderate

Wintergreen is actually an evergreen shrub, but since it only grows 3-6 inches tall and has a creeping/spreading habit, it is classified as a ground cover. It is in the Ericacaea family and as such is a relative of the blueberry, mountain laurel, Pieris, heaths and heathers - all of which require highly organic, acidic soil (pH 5.0-6.0) and good drainage. A lack of good drainage is what can cause rapid decline.

Grow Wintergreen in partial to full shade or in a woodland garden under hardwoods or pines. It also grows well in a shady rock garden or in containers. Wintergreen produces white bell-shaped flowers in spring to summer followed by large bright red berries in the fall that persist into the winter. The berries are the same size or larger than those of hollies. The leaves take on a slight crimson hue in the winter giving it a pleasing holiday appearance.

Use Wintergreen as a container plant or as an evergreen ground cover. Plant Wintergreen in highly organic woodland soil or soil that has been amended with conditioners (such as Nature's Helper) or peat moss. Drainage is critical. In the fall, remove any leaves that drop onto it as Wintergreen hates being buried by mulch or leaf litter. When happy, the plant spreads quite quickly.

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Although I have seen or purchased this plant from the nurseries below, I cannot guarantee that they will have it in stock at the time this newsletter is published.

Home Depot/Home Depot Landscape Supply: multiple locations
Pike Family Nurseries: multiple locations

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