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Leucothoe Axillaris (loo-KOH-thoh-ee, ax-ILL-ar-iss) is an evergreen shrub and belongs to the Ericaceae family along with Calluna Vulgaris.
The broadleaf evergreen is indigenous to the eastern U.S. and is widely distributed in Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, Florida, Virginia, and North and South Carolina.
The genus – “Leucothoe” – is named in an honor of the love interest of Apollo (a Greek God) – Leucothoe – who was also the daughter of the King Orchamus of Persia.
On the other hand, “Axillaris” refers to the plant’s prominent part “axil” from where the shoots grow out of the stems.
Leucothoe Axilliaris has several interesting common names, which are as follows:
- Coastal doghobble
- Coastal leucothoe
- Dog hobble
- Coast leucothoe
Leucothoe Axillaris Plant Care
Size and Growth
Doghobble is a low-growing climbing shrub with medium growth rate, reaching up to 2’- 4’ feet tall and spreading up to 3’ – 5’ feet wide.
This is a vase-like plant with wide-spreading branches and a medium-coarse texture.
The shrub has simple ovate-shaped dark green leaves with fuzzy margins.
When provided with the right growing condition, these leathery and slightly pointy leaves grow up to 2” – 4” inches long and 2” inches wide.
In the fall season, the foliage color turns from vivid green to purplish-bronze.
With alternate leaf arrangement, the leaves continue to thrive on the plant all year long.
Flowering and Fragrance
Coastal doghobble produces bell-shaped flowers on arching branches in early summer, typically from April to May.
During the bloom time, the flowers, along the racemes, boast a simple white flower color.
These clusters of clear white flowers provide a beautiful contrast to the deep dark leaves of the plant.
The showy and fragrant flowers spring up from the leaf axils and develop up to 2” – 3” inches long.
Light and Temperature
- Leucothoe axillaris prefers full sun or partial shade for the ideal growth.
- However, make sure to keep the soil moist or else the plant may suffer from serious damage.
- It is easy for a doghobble plant to dry out when kept in the sun for too long.
- Make sure to keep the soil wet and well-drained.
- The plant doesn’t perform well in harsh winter temperatures and must be protected from harsh winter cold and winds.
- The USDA zone or hardiness zone of this evergreen shrub is from zone 6 – 9, which means it can tolerate temperatures as below 5° degrees Fahrenheit (-15° C).
Watering and Feeding
The thick and hefty shrub has medium moisture requirements.
Healthy plants prefer consistent watering to maintain a healthy structure.
However, the spreading shrub is capable of tolerating brief periods of dryness.
If the leaves start turning pale and brown, it is mainly because the plant is not getting enough water.
Place it in part shade and water it frequently to bring the plant back to life.
When it comes to feeding, apply an acidifying, organic granular fertilizer at the base of a Leucothoe fontanesiana plant.
Make sure this fertilizer is specifically formulated for evergreens.
The ideal time to feed this thick and bloomy shrub is in spring, preferably in March.
Soil and Transplanting
Leucothoe axillaris thrives in all types of soil – clay, loamy, and sandy.
An important requirement is for the soil to be moist and well-drained with an acidic pH value.
The ideal time to transplant fetterbush is in winter when the plant is at rest.
Another time to consider re-potting is in early spring.
Before transplanting, make sure to deep water the plant regularly for a few days.
This will prepare the plant for easy transplantation and avoid transplant shock.
Grooming and Maintenance
Dohobbles like deep, regular watering and thus thrive well in wet and soggy locations.
Make sure to provide a layer of mulch in the summer season to keep the roots strong and sturdy.
In a year or two, dobhobbles tend to become lanky and rickety.
Prune them lightly in any season to give the plant a neat and bushy appearance.
Ideally, trim the plant in early winter or early spring before new growth starts.
How to Propagate Coastal Leucothoe Doghobble
- Propagate leucothoe axillaris in late winter by sowing seeds in a pot or container.
- Place it in a part shade of a greenhouse and ensure the compost remains moist.
- Water the propagated plant regularly for the first winter.
- Move it to its permanent location in early spring or summer.
Coastal Leucothoe Doghobble Pests and Diseases
This plant type is usually pest and disease-free.
However, under-watering often causes the plant to suffer from root rot and leaf spots.
Leucothoe Axillaris Uses
This is a native plant of the United States and is therefore widely used as borders, foundation plants, and facer plants in North America.
Since they are deer-resistant, they are also cultivated in rock gardens and wild forests and elevate natural beauty.