Bluebeard (Caryopteris) is a genus of flowering plants in the family Lamiaceae. They are native to east Asia. Also called Blue Mist or Blue Spirea, it is a herbaceous plant or small shrub. Growing in USDA zones 5-9, this shrub prefers full to partial sun. Bluebeard shrubs can reach 3 feet wide and 4 feet high, but can grow a little taller in the right conditions. Caryopteris is a drought-tolerant shrub that has pretty, sage-like pale green leaves and blue blooms. The leaves have a nice, light scent which attracts wildlife and is great for containers or landscape areas.
This pretty and easy-care shrub can grow and bloom in either full sun or part sun in zones 5 through 9. Some cultivars are hardy down to zone 4. The plant can reach 3 feet wide and 4 feet high, but can grow a little taller in the right conditions. It is easy to shape and control. Blue mist can make a nice low hedge if planted close together or serve as a featured plant in a sunny area.
Blue mist does not like to sit in soggy soil, especially in cooler weather, so choose a spot with soil that drains well. You can plant these near dry river beds and other drainage where rain runoff goes as long as the soil drains well. Bluebeards will tolerate some shade but should get at least 6 hours of sun each day for good blooming. Space each plant 20-32 inches apart. Bloom time is July through September. Planting in early spring is best, but summer and fall are also OK as long as extra care is given. Once fully established, this shrub is drought tolerant and requires minimal watering.
Young Bluebeard plants will need regular watering during the first year of planting. During that time, water caryopteris regularly. Allow it to dry a little between waterings. When temperatures stay above about 90 degrees, water blue mist every two weeks if you are not getting rain. To avoid root rot, cut back on watering when nights cool and for plants getting some shade.
Once established, this drought tolerant plant will not need much supplemental watering. When temperatures stay above about 90 degrees, water blue mist every two weeks if you are not getting rain. Waterings should be deep soaking, allowing the soil to completely dry out between waterings. To avoid root rot, cut back on watering when nights cool and for plants getting some shade.
Bluebeard plants are not heavy feeders. When newly planted, mixing some organic matter into the planting hole is a good idea. Each spring, fertilize with a balanced fertilizer. Avoid fertilizers with a high nitrogen level. This may stimulate heavy foliage growth and limit flower production. Water well after each application of fertilizer.
Bluebeard plants require minimal care. Prune in spring as new growth begins to appear near the ground. You can also prune in early fall after the plant fades if you are worried about self-sowing. Trim the branches down to about 12 to 18 inches. There is no need to deadhead your bluebeard for continuous blooming. The faded flowers will provide fall interest on the shrub. You can always prune at any time to shape the plant.
If you do get volunteer plants or your caryopteris outgrows its spot in your garden, it is an easy shrub to transplant. Carefully dig deeply around your small volunteers soon after their lower leaves green up in spring.
Caring For Bluebeard in Pots
Bluebeard shrubs can be planted alone in a container or as a thriller in an arrangement. Typically drought tolerant, a container grown Bluebeard may need more frequent waterings. Choose a container that has good drainage holes. The plant doesn't like to sit in water as it can cause root rot. Be sure that the container will get 6 hours of full sun each day. This will encourage more blooming.
Winter Care for Bluebeard
Landscape Bluebeards can come back after the winter season. Wait until the spring to prune off dead branches. Avoid fertilizing in the fall as this can stimulate new growth that can be damaged. Container grown Bluebeards can be overwintered indoors. Place them in a cool garage, basement or covered porch. Reduce watering as winter is the time for the plant to go dormant.