LSU AgCenter Horticulturist
The LSU AgCenter is pleased to announce its 2023 fall Louisiana Super Plant selection: Cinnamon Girl distylium (Distylium 'PIIDIST-V'). Distylium hybrids are relatively new to the plant nursery trade, making their debut in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Distylium is a native to Asia and is a member of the witch hazel family.
Most available hybrids are a cross between two species: Distylium racemosum, which has dark green foliage, and Distylium myricoides, which adds the interesting growth architecture and leaf features. Distylium shrubs have gorgeous, blue-green foliage on wide-spreading, horizontally arching branches that grow in layers, giving it a swirling appearance. It’s unlike any growth I’ve seen on an evergreen shrub.
Distylium racemosum lends its hardy genetics to the hybrid. Some distylium cultivars are cold hardy to zone 6b, and all will perform well in Louisiana, which is in zones 8a, 8b and 9a. These shrubs also are heat and drought tolerant. They can grow in either full sun or shade and display no major insect or disease problems. Distylium can tolerate wet and dry soils. They require minimal attention, making them an easy-care foundation evergreen shrub.
The best time to plant shrubs is just around the corner. Once temperatures cool off for the fall and before the cold of winter sets in, add a unique touch to your landscape with distylium. There are several cultivars available now, so you are sure to find one that suits your taste.
Some cultivars are Bayou Bliss, Blue Cascade, Cast in Bronze, Cinnamon Girl, Coppertone, Emerald Heights, Linebacker and Vintage Jade. The names give us a hint of the color hues, and they are all adaptable to the Louisiana landscape. They produce red-maroon flowers in late to early spring, but these flowers are not showy.
Each of the cultivars has a unique growth habit. Some are more compact while others are much larger. Overall, most grow 4 feet in height by 8 feet in width and are excellent for hedge selections, as they tolerate heavy pruning and hold beautiful foliage all year.
Cinnamon Girl, our 2023 Louisiana Super Plant selection for the fall, was introduced in 2016 and has smaller leaves. It is an ideal replacement for littleleaf boxwood, Indian hawthorn and other evergreen shrubs used as small hedges or foundation plantings that are threatened by insects and diseases, especially in the South. It is truly an attractive evergreen shrub that provides year-round interest in the landscape.
This cultivar has a compact growth habit. New leaf growth is a red-purple color and matures to blue-green foliage. The shrub has a spreading-swirling branch architecture that can be massed as a compact hedge or tall ground cover. It grows 2 to 3 feet tall by 4 to 6 feet wide. It is one of the most cold hardy distylium cultivars and can survive in zone 6b. Plant in full sun to partial shade. A location with four to six hours of direct sunlight is best.
Cinnamon Girl is considered both rabbit and deer resistant. In addition to being drought tolerant, this distylium also can tolerate wet soils as we often experience here in Louisiana. It has good disease resistance too.
Cinnamon Girl needs very little maintenance, but occasional pruning can help maintain the desired shape and size. However, the natural distylium form is one of this shrub’s best attributes.
Not such a well-kept secret of the landscape and home garden anymore, word is spreading about the exceptional qualities of distylium plants, and we see them increasingly in retail garden centers and out in the landscape. For more information on Cinnamon Girl distylium and other Louisiana Super Plants, contact your LSU AgCenter parish office or visit www.LSUAgCenter.com/SuperPlants.
The Louisiana Super Plant Program is an AgCenter educational and marketing campaign that highlights tough and beautiful plants that perform well throughout the state of Louisiana. Moreover, the Louisiana Super Plant Program is endorsed by Certified Louisiana, which is a Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry program that promotes locally produced agricultural products.
Each spring and fall, AgCenter horticulturists announce the Louisiana Super Plant selections for that year. Louisiana Super Plants have a proven track record with many years of reliable performance in Louisiana landscapes and have gone through several years of university evaluations and observations.
Look for Cinnamon Girl distylium and all the other Louisiana Super Plants at your local nurseries and garden centers.
Compact Cinnamon Girl distylium is a versatile and attractive evergreen shrub prized for its gorgeous foliage, unique growth habit and year-round appeal. Photo by Heather Kirk-Ballard/LSU AgCenter
Distylium has a beautiful growth habit of arching branches. Photo by Heather Kirk-Ballard/LSU AgCenter
Distylium makes a nice hedge when planted en masse and shaped as a hedge or left to its natural form. Photo by Heather Kirk-Ballard/LSU AgCenter