How To Grow Doghobble (Leucothoe fontanesiana) In Your Garden

Leucothoe fontanesiana, also kown as Drooping Leucothoe or Mountain Doghobble, is an evergreen shrub. It is appreciated for its arching branches with glossy, dark green leaves. These exhibit a purple-bronze hue in winter.

Typically, it grows to a height and spread of 3 to 5 feet (0.9 to 1.5 m). Gardeners like this plant as it has an elegant form, a ability to thrive in shade, and can be used in borders, hedges, and as a groundcover.

Leucothoe fontanesiana cultivar 'Rainbow'
Leucothoe fontanesiana cv. 'Rainbow' photograph by SuperFantastic; CC.

It performs best in USDA hardiness zones 5 to 8 (RHS H6) .

How to Grow Leucothoe fontanesiana in the Garden

Leucothoe fontanesiana prefers a location with part to full shade and a well-drained, moist, acidic soil. this should be rich in organic matter.

Plant it from rootballs in spring or early fall. Dig the hole to the same depth as the root ball. Backfill with soil once planted, and then water thoroughly.

Although it's somewhat drought-tolerant once established, Highland Doghobble appreciatea regular watering, particularly in dry periods. Applying an acidic, slow-release fertilizer in early spring will promote vigorous growth.

Pruning is generally not necessary, but if shaping is desired, then prune lightly after flowering.

Pests can include scale and leaf spots. Ensure good air circulation and avoid wetting the foliage when watering to reduce the risk of disease.

Doghobble in bloom
Doghobble flowers image by Buddha Dog; CC.

Leucothoe fontanesiana is a distinctive and graceful choice for your garden. It provides year-round interest, and creates a lush, dark backdrop against which other plants can shine.

Quick Leucothoe fontanesiana Growing and Care Guide

Scientific Name: Leucothoe fontanesiana.

Common Name(s): Drooping Leucothoe, Fetterbush, Drooping Laurel, Highland Doghobble, Fetter-bush, Mountain doghobble, Switch ivy.

Growing Zone (USA / UK Hardiness): USDA Zones: 5-8. Hardiness H6, hardy throughout northern Europe,

Best Used For / Garden Location: Shady woodland gardens, shrub borders.

Plant Details

Life Cycle / Plant Type: Evergreen shrub.

Plant Height: 3-5 ft (0.9-1.5 m).

Plant Spread: 3-5 ft (0.9-1.5 m).

Blooms: Late spring.

Flower Details: Small, white to pale pink, bell-shaped flowers in drooping clusters.

Leaf Foliage: Glossy, dark green, lance-shaped leaves that turn purplish-bronze in winter.

Fruit: Small, dry seed capsules, not ornamentally significant.

Growing Conditions and Location

Best Light Conditions: Part shade to full shade.

Suitable Soil Types: Moist, well-drained, acidic soil.

Sowing, planting: Plant container-grown shrubs in spring or fall.

Germination time: Not typically grown from seed.

Propagation: Semi-hardwood cuttings in summer.

Plant Care: Maintain moist soil; mulch to conserve moisture and protect in winter.

Growing in pots and containers: Possible, but prefers being planted in the ground.

Growing as a House plant: Not suitable for indoor cultivation.

Further Information

Miscellaneous: Resistant to deer; attracts bees and butterflies.

Pests and diseases: May be susceptible to leaf spots and fungal diseases.

Common Cultivars / Varieties: Leucothoe fontanesiana 'Rainbow' has variegated foliage; 'Girard's Rainbow' is compact with multicolored foliage.

Family: Ericaceae, the Heath family.

Native: Southeastern United States.

References and Further Reading: RHS: Leucothoe fontanesiana 'Trivar'; Missouri Botanical Garden: Drooping Laurel; Cornell Woody Plants Database.

Common Questions

Does Leucothoe fontanesiana make a good garden or landscaping plant?

Yes, Leucothoe fontanesiana, commonly known as Drooping Leucothoe or Highland Dog Hobble, is an excellent choice for gardens and landscapes. It's an hardy evergreen shrub with attractive arching branches. It can be a great option for a woodland garden or in use as a ground cover.

Is Leucothoe fontanesiana a fragrant plant?

Leucothoe fontanesiana produces fragrant white bell-shaped flowers in spring. These have a sweet, attractive aroma.

What is the perfect location to grow Leucothoe fontanesiana?

Highland Dog Hobble prefers shade to partial shade and acidic, moist, well-drained soil. It's a perfect plant for a woodland garden or shady area.

Is Leucothoe fontanesiana invasive in the USA, if so in which states?

Currently, this Leucothoe plant is not considered invasive in the USA.

How do I remove Leucothoe fontanesiana from my garden?

To remove Leucothoe fontanesiana, initially cut back the shrub, then carefully dig out as much of the root system as possible. Monitor the area for regrowth. Remove any new sprouts that appear.


Leucothoe fontanesiana is an evergreen shrub that thrives in acidic, well-drained soil and partial to full shade. Its glossy, dark-green leaves and spring flowers make it an attractive ground cover or border plant.

I hope that you have enjoyed reading this guide on how to grow Leucothoe fontanesiana. You may also enjoy the following heather growing guides: How to grow Pieris japonica, Gaultheria Procumbens, and How to Grow Arctostaphylos uva-ursi plants in the garden.

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