The Escallonia genus includes around 50 recognized species of both shrubs and trees. Native to both North and South America, most of the species, as well as their numerous cultivars and hybrids, are evergreen plants.
These perennials are often grown in gardens, for use as a screen or hedging shrub.
Escallonia grows wild and widely in the mountain regions of South America, and it seems the shrub originated in the tropical Andes.
|Height||Up to 15 feet (4.57 m)|
|Width||Up to 15 feet (4.57 m)|
|USDA Plant Hardiness Zone||Zones 8 to 10|
|Native to||North and South America|
|Flower colors||White, pink, red|
|Plant specific features||Evergreen, tolerant to many planting conditions. Long-flowering period, hardy, moderate to fast-growing.|
How to Plant and Grow an Escallonia Bush
Don’t plant the escallonia too deeply in the ground. The soil should be at the same level as the top of the root ball.
After you have positioned the shrub in the ground, backfill around the roots. A thorough watering at this stage will help to compact the soil around the roots.
Where to Plant
The escallonia is a shrub that will thrive in a diverse range of planting conditions. Unlike other shrubs, an escallonia will tolerate full sun, salt spray, wind, and cold.
This adaptability makes the escallonia a good choice for a coastal garden that is exposed to both wind and salt in the air.
With their fantastic display of summer flowers and evergreen foliage, the escallonia can grow successfully in containers. When planted in a pot, a compact variety of escallonia can be pruned to keep it in an attractive shape.
Because it will tolerate a position in full sun, the escallonia makes an easy-to-care-for pot plant for the patio or poolside, although it will need more frequent watering than an in-ground plant.
An escallonia shrub can also be trained to grow as a climber or, by removing all branches except the central stem, into a specimen tree.
Multiple shrubs, planted around 40 cm apart, make an attractive choice to grow along a fence or wall. It is important to give them sufficient space, as escallonia shrubs grow relatively quickly.
If you plant them too close together, you will have to cut them back more often, and escallonia shrubs flower best if they are only pruned or trimmed once a year.
A golden-leaved variety is less tolerant of cold and strong wind and will need to be given some shelter.
When to Plant
The best time to plant the escallonia is either in the Spring or in the Fall. A Spring planting will give the shrub a full growing season before the onset of winter. During this time, the escallonia will be able to establish a strong and robust root system.
However, be prepared to give the newly planted escallonia regular and thorough watering throughout the summer if you plant in the Spring.
Planting in the Autumn is also a good time to plant, as roots should still be able to grow well before the winter and become established before the main Spring growth commences.
Fall planting is also less labor-intensive as regards the escallonia’s watering requirements, as the ground is naturally moister at this time.
Escallonia Shrubs Care and Maintenance
One of the best characteristics of the escallonia is that it needs little human intervention in order to perform well in the garden! Another plus for this shrub!
The best soil for an escallonia shrub is both fertile and free-draining. Prepare the soil before planting and mix in some well-rotted manure or other organic compost. If necessary, improve the soil with a soil conditioner.
The escallonia needs to be planted in well-draining soil. This will help to ensure that the shrub doesn’t develop leaf spots or other diseases.
After the shrub is planted, it needs to be well-watered. For the first growing season, the roots must not be allowed to dry out, so water them regularly.
This will help the escallonia develop a strong and robust root network which, when established, will enable the shrub to absorb both moisture and nutrients from the soil.
The most efficient use of water is to water less often, but very thoroughly. This encourages the shrub to grow roots deeper in the ground, so they will be able to access water during drier spells.
More frequent, but superficial watering, will result in the root system spreading just under the soil’s surface, where the ground dries out quicker. The escallonia will be less able to cope with drier conditions.
If you are growing the escallonia in a pot, it will require more frequent watering, as the soil will dry out far quicker than in the ground.
Avoid using a plastic pot, as both heat and cold will penetrate and potentially damage the root system. A plant in a plastic pot also dries out extremely quickly.
Early in the Spring, the escallonia develops vigorous new growth. This is the best time to apply fertilizer and will encourage plenty of new shoots to form.
Use an all-purpose, slow-release fertilizer that is designed for shrubs and trees.
A fertilizer with a composition of 10-10-10 (equal parts of Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K)) is ideal. The use of such a fertilizer will increase the number of blooms, the size of the individual flowers and intensify their color too.
Always make sure that you follow the manufacturer’s instructions when applying fertilizer and, if necessary, water well after application.
Although not necessary, you can apply a subsequent feed in the early part of the Summer. However, avoid fertilizing an escallonia later than this.
Fertilizing encourages new growth, and new shoots that form at the end of the Summer or in the Autumn may be too tender to survive the winter cold.
For the best results, plant the escallonia in full sun. A planting site that receives plenty of sunlight will encourage and increase the beautiful escallonia flowers.
Pruning and Repotting
When growing escallonia as a hedging plant, regular pruning is important. It will keep the shrub compact, with dense foliage, and stop it from becoming too tall.
When pruning, particularly if you are dealing with a neglected escallonia, don’t remove more than one-third of the branches at any one time. Start by removing a third of the oldest branches and repeat the process for the following couple of years until the plant’s shape is restored.
Pruning shouldn’t be done more than once a year in order to obtain the best blooms.
Most escallonia shrubs are relatively fast-growing, at around one foot (30 cm) per year. Hedges usually need to be kept under about 8 feet (2.5 m), in order that they don’t get out of control.
The best time to prune is once the flowering has finished. Don’t leave it too late because the flowers form on old wood.
If you prune after the flower buds have started to form, the shrub may not have time to develop new flowering growth before the onset of winter. Consequently, you will lose the following season’s flowers.
Always keep an eye out for any dead or diseased wood. In order to prevent fungal disease and rot, all damaged and dead branches need to be removed from around the plant as soon as they are discovered.
Similarly, to prevent the disease from getting a hold on the escallonia, keep the center of the plant open to encourage good air circulation at the base of the shrub.
In order to maintain the attractive shape of an escallonia shrub, keep the tips of the branches clipped. This will encourage vigorous new growth.
After you have pruned the escallonia, it is a good idea to provide a mulch of well-rotted organic matter around the base of the shrub. Make sure, however, that the mulch doesn’t touch the stem of the plant or there is a risk of rot.
If the escallonia has been exposed to particularly harsh weather conditions, it may lose its usually evergreen leaves. This can happen after a prolonged spell of extreme cold, heat, wind, drought or excess rainfall.
Replacement leaves will normally grow once the weather improves. Sometimes, after a severe frost, tender escallonia shoots may die.
You can cut the dead growth off the shrub, but not until the Spring. By this time, you will be able to see where the new growth is and make sure you don’t cut this off inadvertently.
Semi-ripe cuttings of escallonia are easy to do and have a high success rate. These are cuttings taken in the Summer, when the current season’s growth has just started to become slightly woody.
A cutting around 4 inches (10 cm) long should be cut from the stem just below a leaf joint, using a sharp, clean knife. Don’t use scissors to do this as you will pinch the stem, damaging the plant tissue.
Remove the lower leaves, and cut the top pair of leaves in half. Dipping the base in hormone rooting powder will speed up the rooting process.
Place the stem cuttings into pots filled with compost. You can use a plastic bag to cover the pots and keep them in a warm place or in a propagator for a few weeks in order for them to root.
Once you see signs of newly developing top growth, this is a sign that the cutting has developed roots. At this stage, you can remove the plastic cover and grow on in an unheated greenhouse or cold frame to overwinter. The following Spring, the escallonia can be planted outside in its growing position.
Pests and diseases
The escallonia is an easy plant to cultivate. Not many pests or diseases will threaten the health and development of your shrub.
However, fungal infections such as leaf spots can spoil the appearance of the escallonia. Keeping the ground clear of weeds, decaying leaves, and other vegetation is important.
Also, cut back and remove any infected leaves as soon as you notice them. The purpose of this is two-fold. First, you will be eliminating the spread of the disease, and secondly, you will be encouraging the shrub to develop new growth.
Good airflow through the center of the plant is very important too, as this also helps to discourage disease and infection. This can be achieved through regular pruning.
Symptoms of leaf spots are discoloration in the leaves and, in a more advanced form, leaf drop will occur.
Following a spell of cool, damp weather, the escallonia is most threatened by fungal diseases, including leaf spots. Usually, as warmer temperatures return, the shrub will recover.
A healthy plant is less at risk of being troubled by pests and disease, so keep the escallonia well fertilized and control the watering in the winter.
Temperature and Humidity
Excess humidity either in the soil or by over-watering, is the main cause of an escallonia failing to thrive. Whilst regular watering is important, an escallonia needs its soil to dry out between watering.
Too much humidity will lead to fungal diseases, such as leaf spots or root rot. Once the shrub’s roots have started to rot, the plant will die. There is no available cure or treatment.
The escallonia is a shrub that tolerates wind but prefers warmth. To do your best, keep the escallonia in a warm and especially sunny location, and it will reward you with the very best show of beautiful blooms.
Other Uses for Escallonia
Escallonia is a great choice of shrub for a wildlife garden. Whichever variety you choose, and whatever the color of its flowers, you will find that the butterflies and bees will be attracted to the escallonia.
A hedge that attracts insect pollinators is equally beneficial for attracting birds that will appreciate the escallonia’s dense foliage for nest-building.
Types of Escallonia You Can Grow
Escallonia “Iveyi”, commonly referred to as Escallonia white, is a hardy variety. Its tubular-shaped flowers are white and fragrant. This variety will flower all through the summer months (from June to October in the Northern Hemisphere).
This is a shrub that remains compact, and its fragrant blooms attract bees and butterflies. Being hard of many planting sites, it is an excellent choice for a hedging plant in a coastal location.
It is tolerant of salt spray and wind, so will provide shelter for other garden plants.
Escallonia “Donard Seedling”, also known as Escallonia Pink, is a beautiful species. It bears an abundance of bright pink, bell-shaped flowers. These blooms contrast well against the glossy dark green foliage.
Like other species, Escallonia pink is hardy and tolerant of salt spray, so it makes a good choice for a seaside garden. This variety prefers to be planted in a sunny position.
Escallonia Donard is one of the hardiest escallonia shrubs available. It is a shrub that is ideal to include in a mixed border or shrubbery and will attract bees and other wildlife to the garden.
Escallonia rubra “Macrantha” is yet another variety that works well in a coastal planting scheme. This species, known also as Red flowering Escallonia, or Redclaws, produces an abundance of brightly colored flowers and large, dark-green, glossy, evergreen foliage.
More recently, several hybrid varieties and cultivars have been developed to produce shrubs with golden-colored foliage. These are somewhat less hardy than the original species of escallonia and are not as fast-growing. However, their leaves add to the winter season’s interest.
Escallonia laevis “Gold Brian” is an example of a hybrid that produces golden-yellow foliage and has plenty of pink flowers.
Other hybrids have been developed to create dwarf, low-growing shrubs. Dwarf escallonia has colorful red flowers and is a slow-growing, compact shrub.
This is also known as Escallonia compacta. It won’t grow more than 8 feet (2.44 m) at maturity, and it grows very slowly.
An escallonia will provide all-year interest in the garden and best of all it is low-maintenance.
*image by Wirestock/depositphotos