No Need to Shave Bluebeards

By Jim Janke | Jan 14, 2013

I’ve had a mustache for 40 years, but have never been able to grow a reasonable beard. I get scruffy clumps of hair that look like weeping lovegrass sprayed with prune yoghurt.

But I can grow Bluebeard, one of our favorite perennials. And it looks a lot better than anything on my face. Here’s why we think Bluebeard is special.

The parents of today’s Bluebeards (Caryopteris x clandonensis) originated in Asia. A breeder in England in the 1930’s found a self-sown volunteer that grew much better than his “on purpose” hybrids. From that seedling today’s Bluebeards have evolved.

Bluebeards form compact mounds 2 to 3 feet tall and wide, with fragrant blue or purple flowers that are a magnet for butterflies and bees. They are excellent in perennial borders singly or in groups, especially against a light colored background. Pests leave them alone. Plant in full sun to light shade in any well-drained soil, and water deeply once per week for the first few weeks. Once established they are drought resistant. Prune in early spring to shape the plant or to remove limbs that have died back during the winter.

We planted Bluebeard ‘Dark Knight’ (Caryopteris x clandonensis 'Dark Knight'), and within 2 years it formed a 3 foot tall mound covered with purple flowers all summer. The flowers are great for cutting and floral arrangements, and the gray-green foliage has a slight eucalyptus odor that is appealing in potpourri. Other than annual pruning the plant has been totally care free.

Check out local nurseries for Bluebeard this spring, and consider adding it to your perennial border.

Jim Janke is an Extension Master Gardener Volunteer in Haywood County. For more information call the Haywood County Extension Center at 828-456-3575. © 2013 NC State University.