Leucothoe is a plant genus that is part of the Ericaceae family. It contains about 50 species of deciduous and evergreen shrubs that are native to Asia, North America, South America, and Madagascar. This genus features unique tubular flowers that form in clusters and pointed, glossy leaves that change color throughout the season. The shrubs are commonly used as hedges, screens, or container plants. Commonly encountered problems with this genus include fungal disease and insect damage.
This genus is named after the Greek goddess Leucothea. The common name for this genus is doghobble, and most of the species are known by a variation of this name. For example, Leucothoe fontanesiana is called the highland doghobble, while Leucothoe axillaris is called the coastal doghobble. Leucothoe racemosa is known as the swamp doghobble.
Most of the species are located in North America and Asia. L. fontanesiana grows in the mountainous regions of the eastern United States, from Virginia to Tennessee, while L. davisiae populates eastern California and southern Oregon. L. tonkinensis is distributed across southern China and northern Vietnam.
Typically, the shrubs in this genus grow about 5 feet (1.5 m) in height and have a spread that is roughly 8 feet (2.5 m). The bushy form consists of glossy, skinny leaves that initially appear red and quickly become dark green. As the fall approaches, the leaves turn reddish-green and purple before dropping. The branches are arching and usually weighed down by the flowers at the tips.
The flowers are small, pitcher or urn-shaped, and hang upside down from the end of branches. They develop in clusters that appear like slender spikes and are usually white. The bloom period is typically from May to June.
For this genus of plants to do well, it is recommended to plant them in acidic soil that is well-draining. Clay, loamy, and sandy soil are all adequate media for this genus, as long as the soil is amended with organic material. The area should be partially shaded or fully shaded, since direct sunlight can cause leaf burn. An exception is made for extremely humid regions, where the risk of leaf spot is higher in the shade.
Leaf spot is a fungal disease that results in brown or black patches on the leaves. Direct sunlight exposure in humid regions can reduce the risk of leaf spot by keeping the plant dry. Another way to reduce the risk of infection is to remove dead leaves and other plant debris that might house fungal spores during the winter.