Covered in fluffy blue-purple flowers in late summer and early autumn, caryopteris come into their own when many other shrubs are past their best. They thrive in a sunny border or gravel garden with free-draining soil, where they blend well with purple asters, salvias and ornamental grasses, or make a striking contrast to fiery orange crocosmias. They also grow well in containers, and provide valuable late-season nectar for bees and butterflies.
Caryopteris are generally compact shrubs, up to 1m (3ft), with upright or arching stems that carry fluffy clusters of blue-purple flowers in late summer and early autumn. Inflated seed pods continue the interest into autumn. They are deciduous, losing their usually grey-green, aromatic leaves over winter. A few cultivars offer variegated or golden leaves, or pink or white flowers.
Caryopteris thrive in a warm, sunny location, and are happy in most types of soil, even quite poor, as long as it’s free draining. They cope well with drought.
They don’t like soggy ground and humidity. Winter waterlogging may prove fatal, so if you have heavy soil, grow in a raised bed or large container. Although hardy, caryopteris may struggle in very harsh winters, especially in damp soil, so plant a warm spot with good drainage.
Did you know?
Most of the widely available cultivars are from the hybrid Caryopteris x clandonensis, named after the village of Clandon in Surrey where it was bred in the 1930s. Its parents are thought to be C. incana and C. mongholica.
Containers: planting up
Perennial borders: choosing plants
Shrubs: pruning summer- or autumn-flowering
Trees and shrubs: planting
The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.