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 Our plant of the month for December is actually a fabulous trio of cultivars from the genus Distylium. Michael Dirr, retired University of Georgia professor and author of some of my favorite books, introduced these cultivars. He did this by hybridizing Distylium myricoides with Distylium racemosum. Distylium is a hard name to remember therefore sometimes more commonly referred to as ‘evergreen Witch Hazel.’ These are very versatile and exciting plants.

There are three cultivars currently being produced; ‘Vintage Jade’, ‘Blue Cascade’ and ‘Emerald Heights.

The foliage of the Distylium is similar to that of the “Otto Luyken” Laurel, with long, narrow medium green to bluish green evergreen leaves. The over all look of the Distylium is more flowy, and less stiff than that of a Laurel though. The Distylium’s flower is insignificant.


This plant originates from the Isu-tree. It is little known in this country but is native to Japan and China. There it grows on the edges of Oak forests.

 Care & Needs: Distylium is virtually maintenance free, just needing a few clips with the pruners every now and then to catch any stray limbs. It is also extremely heat and drought tolerant. It has great resistance to pest and disease and will adapt to most soils. It is hardy from zone 6b to 9 and since we are in zone 7 it is perfect for us. It will also thrive in full sun or part shade.

What more could you ask for?

Well the main thing I am happy about is that these plants offer a great substitution to for one of my least favorite plants, the “Otto Luyken” Laurel. In my opinion these Laurels are not user friendly at all. Distylium may also be used in place of many other broadleaf evergreens such as; Ligustrum, Cleyera, or Indian Hawthorn.

Blue Cascade Distylium

The three cultivars offered will fit in a wide range of spaces. While all three will grow to be 7-8’wide, the heights vary depending on variety.

“Vintage Jade” has a mature height of only 2’ and works great where a lower shrub is needed.

“Blue Cascade” will reach 3-4” tall at maturity, making it a great replacement for typical foundation shrubs.

 “Emerald Heights” with its more vase like, to upright branches grows to be about 5-6’ tall.