Three distylium cultivars at the LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station. (Photo by M.H. Ferguson)
(News article for October 28, 2023; edited)
It was just a few years ago, after I started working in my current job, that I learned about distyliums. These evergreen shrubs seem to do a good job of tolerating Louisiana's climate and are alternatives for hedge and foundation plants like boxwoods, hollies, Indian hawthorn, Japanese privet, and junipers. Many commercially available varieties are hybrids between Distylium racemosum and D. myricoides. Some are just D. myricoides.
Distyliums have spreading, outward-growing forms that are different from those of many plants used for hedges and foundation plantings.
They grow in full sun to partial shade and produce inconspicuous red flowers in late winter. Resistance to deer damage is one of the claimed attributes.
Cinnamon Girl distylium has been named a 2023 Louisiana Super Plant. The name relates to the reddish color of new growth. Leaves are green when mature.
Cinnamon Girl has smaller leaves than most distylium hybrids. It’s also one of the more compact distyliums. It’s advertised as reaching 2 to 3 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide, although a plant labeled as Cinnamon Girl has grown to 11 feet wide and 6 feet tall since being installed at the Hammond Research Station in 2018.
Other distyliums on the shorter side are Bayou Bliss, Blue Cascade, Cast in Bronze, Coppertone, Spring Frost, Swing Low, and Vintage Jade. Vintage Jade has an especially wide, spreading form.
On the other end of the spectrum is Linebacker, which has a more upright form. Unlike most distylium hybrids, it tends to grow taller than wide. It’s advertised as growing to 8 to 10 feet tall, though specimens at the Hammond Research Station appear to have exceeded this range. One could use Linebacker as a tall evergreen hedge in place of something like Japanese privet (AKA wax leaf ligustrum) or sweet viburnum.
Emerald Heights is smaller than Linebacker but grows taller than other mentioned varieties.
Let me know if you have questions.
Contact Mary Helen Ferguson.
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture