Spring flowers have turned into berries and seed pods. Without their blossoms peonies are mere green bushes, and even the annuals are looking a bit peaked. Don’t despair, however. The show isn’t over yet. One of the best perennials (or small shrubs) for Colorado gardens is Caryopteris x clandoensis, more familiarly known as Bluebeard or Blue Mist Spiraea.
The latter common name can cause some confusion. Caryopteris isn’t a true spiraea. The “Blue Mist” part is spot on. The airy flowers in periwinkle blue really do seem to hover over the tips of the stems in a lovely cloud. The plants can reach two to three feet wide and tall. Foliage is a bluish gray-green, with long, soft, serrated leaves.
If you’re getting frustrated trying to grow beautiful plants along the Front Range, Blue Mist Spiraea will restore your faith in gardening. It’s that easy to grow. Plants are hardy in zones 5b through 8b. Planted against the house (where temperatures aren’t quite as severe) mine have survived at 7,000 feet.
While the flowers attract bees and butterflies, deer prefer to dine elsewhere. So do the bugs—I’ve never hear of a problem with insects or diseases.
Caryopteris isn’t finicky about soil as long as it’s well drained. In fact, too fertile a soil will produce lank, floppy plants. Situate in full sun and remember to water once in a while (yes, they’re drought tolerant as well). Plants grow quickly. You’ll be rewarded with brilliant blue just in time to complement other late summer flowers such as rich yellow Goldenrod and Rudbeckia.
The seed heads that remain after the flowers fade provide some attractive texture all winter long. Cutting the plants back by about half at the end of each winter will also help to keep them compact.
Caryopteris will reseed itself, but not to the point of invasiveness. Finches enjoy picking the seeds out of the dried flower heads, leaving behind just enough for seedlings to fill the holes in your landscape or give to appreciative friends.