Bluebeard – Caryopteris spp.
Plants that bloom late in the summer and into fall are particularly important in the garden. Not only do they offer continuous color and interest as other plants fade, but they provide essential nectar and pollen resources to bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects as they prepare for migration and hibernation. One such late season bloomer is Caryopteris.
Commonly known as bluebeard, blue mist, and blue spirea, Caryopteris is a genus of shrubs and perennials in the mint family (Lamiaceae) that is native to east Asia. Leaves are simple and oppositely-arranged with margins that are either toothed or entire and in colors ranging from green, gray-green, to chartreuse. Flowers are small, blue to purple or white, and found in tight groupings at the ends of branches. Flowers, leaves, and stems are fragrant.
Out of the 6 or 7 species in the genus, the two most common in the horticulture trade are Caryopteris incana and Caryopteris x clandonensis (a hybrid of C. incana and C. mongholica). Both are small shrubs (4 feet and under) that prefer sunny sites with well-drained soil and medium soil moisture. They can tolerate some drought once established. Because they flower on new growth, they can be cut down to the ground in the spring, which helps maintain a tidy appearance. Cultivars of each species are commercially available.
Bluebeard is blooming now at Idaho Botanical Garden. Find Caryopteris x clandonensis ‘Longwood Blue’ in the English Garden and Caryopteris incana ‘Jason’ (commercially known as Sunshine Blue) in the Water Conservation Landscape.
Written by IBG horticulturist, Daniel Murphy.