Mr. D’s Plant of the Week Series: Dog Hobble

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You know you’ve seen those heavy blooming shrubs while cruising around Tallahassee or throughout Leon County but didn’t know its name.

That woody plant with white or pinkish-white bell-shaped blooms we call racemes growing from their arched stolon stems. That’s the Dog Hobble shrub.

The Leucothoe axillaris, (the Dog Hobble’s scientific name; pronounced: loo-KAHTH-oh-ee ack-sil-LAIR-iss), from the family of Ericaceae, is a dense native shrub to Florida. Its other name is Coastal Leucothoe.

The Coastal Leucothoe shrub grows in USDA hardiness zones 5B through 9. Tallahassee and Leon County are in hardiness zone 8, which means you can mass plant, use as ground cover or as a border, year-round with no seasonal concerns.

What to expect from your Dog Hobble shrub

When the Leucothoe axillaris starts to grow, you should expect it to grow to a height of about 6-feet. Furthermore, due to its moderate dense growth, do expect it to spread across about 5- to 12-feet. The reason for the vast spreading is from the arching stolon stems.

What that means, the stems grow horizontal (stolon) and because they also arch it will take root at different points along the Dog Hobble’s length to form new plants, resulting in new growth and increased denseness.

As for the leaf color, it is a glossy green, and then in the winter, the leaves will have a purple-green appearance. By April, you’ll begin seeing the white or pinkish-white bell-shaped flower clusters starting to bloom.

Mr. D’s Cylindrocladium alert for the Dog Hobble shrub

Dog Hobble shrubs needs to grow in a partially or densely shaded area. For the best place to plant it consider an area that gets the morning sunlight, and is a wet site. With that said, you must remember that with wet, densely shaded areas are where the insects, pests, and disease live.

Leaf spots may cause your Coastal Leucothoe to have an undesirable appearance. Not to mention that at least eight species of fungi can and do infect the Leucothoe species shrubs. When this plant grows in poor conditions, expect ugly leaf spot lesions that commonly overtake and devour the entire leaf.

The two most common diseases are the:

1. Cylindrocladium leaf spot – Dark spots will form on the leaves. The lacerations on the stems will girdle and kill them. Management of this disease is to avoid overhead irrigation and use a fungicide as a drenching spray when applied.

2. Cylindrocladium root rot – The plants get stunted and as the branches start to die the disease leaves them wilting and yellow. When you begin seeing dark-brown to black lesions forming on the roots, they will enlarge, and enclose them. At the soil line, lengthwise cracks may develop in the stem too. Control of this disease is to avoid overhead irrigation and apply a fungicide as a soil drench.

If you’re thinking about planting Dog Hobble shrubs in your garden or at a commercial property, and want more details, give us a call and speak to one of our landscaping specialists. Or stop by the Dickerson Landscaping & Lawn Care nursery at 12 Hayfield Spur, over in Lloyd. We have a vast selection of shrubs you can choose.

If you found the Dog Hobble material interesting, then check out our Elephant’s Ear plant column and let us know your thoughts!