Last updated on June 11th, 2012
LONG BEFORE THIS 1826 HOUSE WAS MINE, some thoughtful gardener planted four deciduous shrubs in the broad bed outside the parlor (now my music room) window. Three of these were easy to identify: mock orange, azalea and pee-gee hydrangea. But the name of the fourth shrub, which drapes itself in snow-white bloom from June to July, was a mystery to me. That is, until reader Cary Bradley identified this Plantus unknownus as Deutzia scabra. Are you familiar with this old-fashioned beauty that blooms in dense shade?
Why this “Fuzzy Deutzia” or “Pride of Rochester” is so rarely seen, I haven’t a clue. For it accepts average soil, moderate water, and full sun or shade as you please. Mine produces dazzling white panicles in the dense shade of ancient maple trees. Its unopened buds, as you can see in the photo above, resemble the bells of Gallanthus snowdrop.
It is my sincerest hope that you will want to plant Deutzia scabra in your own garden. If you can’t locate one at your local garden center — and I’ll wager you can’t — here’s what you can do. Snoop around the older gardens in your area, and try to find the shrub. It will be easier to spot in June, when it is covered with flowers. Then ask permission to take a 5-inch long, softwood cutting. (If you find it in a park or a cemetery, proceed as your conscience allows.) Remove the cutting’s lower inch of leaves, insert the exposed stem in a 5-inch pot of humussy soil, and you’ll have your very own plant in about six weeks’ time.
However you come to obtain it, scabra is definitely worth having, especially if you want an uncommon plant that will delight you with flowers even in dense shade. I’m certainly grateful to the soul who planted one here.
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http://www.forestfarm.com/product.php?id=1578 found one here. It is a beauty…..
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
snowflake – Thanks for the link – it's good to know that someone is selling this old-fashioned beauty.
Pride of Rochester?!? With that name I'd better be able to find one by me!
sob sob….was going to order one today and it will not grow here we are zone 4 on the cold end… 🙂
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Katreader – I was thinking the same thing…t'would be funny if no one in Rochester grows/sells the plant.
snowflake – If you really, really want the shrub, here's a little secret: sometimes you can outwit the hardiness issue by planting near a south-facing house wall. Likewise, if you have a south-facing slope on your property, you can plant the shrub there. These two areas seem to have their own micro-climate.
To late for reasonable shipping this time of year for me. Air shipping was 32.00 so will try it next spring. Or maybe drive to Oregon and pick it up..:) Worth a try on the south side of house.
Ken from Michigan says
I've know about Deutzia all my life. My grandmother grew them 50 years ago and they have been passed down. I've had them at two homes now, this one going on 18 years. Easy to propagate also, I pull a branch down, put a rock on it and in no time it spouts roots. I'm beginning to see them reintroduce at nurseries the last couple of years.
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Ken from Michigan – Great to hear that you've carried a piece of your grandmother's garden into gardens of your own. I'm currently layering (propagating) my Deutzia, too.
Hi Kevin, I just came across your website and love it! I’ve been reviving a mid-century home in the Pacific Northwest for the past 4-years with an eye toward the vintage it was designed. I’m in the final phase of the garden overhaul. The garden is a generous 1/2 acre on a downhill slope with several springs throughout the lower half.
I’ve just ordered six of the Deutzia scabra “Pride of Rochester” from Forestfarm (https://www.forestfarm.com). If I’d been smart, I’d have gone right to snowflake’s link. Instead I found them on Dave’s Garden – another really useful website.
Three will be planted together along the southern fence line and the other three will be clumped nearby. I understand that butterflies like this shrub as well as birds.
I’ll let you know how season 1 works out.
Wish me luck!
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Christy – Nice to meet you. Your property sounds divine. Good luck with the house, the garden, and of course the Deutzias! See you soon again, I hope.
Arthur in the Garden! says
This shrub reminds me of grandma’s house in Beaufort, NC!
I grow two of these antique Deutzia shrubs in my yard, both in shady areas. Both were propagated from cuttings taken from a cemetery about 18 years ago. If I remember correctly, they rooted in water very easily.
They take pruning and shaping well, done immediately after the flowering period ends.
I love their drapey white flowers and their shade tolerance.
This same cemetery in Easton PA houses a glorious collection of antique roses,many of which I have growing in my yard, also started from cuttings. Our gardening club had a tour there and we were encouraged to try to save varieties through cuttings and growing them in our own gardens. The scenic sloping hills of the cemetery are decorated with abundant ancient trees providing high filtered shade. The 19th century tradition of planting something on the relative’s gravesite has resulted in a wide varietiy of antique plantings of all sorts.
Deutzias are common there. Thanks for bringing attention to this under-utilized shrub.
We have an old, old deutzia here on our property. Have no idea how old it is, but the stalks are very thick. We had to save it from the bittersweet and grape vines which had taken it over when we got here. It has rewarded us with many years of drapey, frilly wands in June. It is easily propagated by layering.
Robin S says
I know where I can take cuttings for Deutzia in NJ. What time of year in NJ; should I take cuttings & get bloom the same year? I have sandy soil; but so do the cuttings I can take.
Can I get flowers the same year as the cuttings? I am senior citizen & want things right away. Please Help me Kevin.
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Robin S – Take cuttings in the spring. You certainly won’t get blooms the first year, because the plant will need to establish a root system first. And by the way, you sound like an impatient gardener — just like me!
Wesley Tyler says
i also have this shrub, i finally found out what it was from sending in a photo to my local ETV/PBS TV show about gardening and such, “Making it grow” and i thought it was funny when i googled it your page popped up! and i was like well of course he does! i love your page we made Zucchini fritters last night they were great!
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I have a deutzia on my property and seems to be dieing, , it has thick stalks that are hollow like reeds, I cut the dead off and see some growth, am I doing the right thing to keep it alive?
I love this bush! I didn’t realize it was so old-fashioned. The three I have in my yard were given to me by my mother a few years ago…she propagated them from her huge deutzia that’s been growing in her yard for years. They were very small when I planted them, but in just three growing seasons, they’re over 8 ft tall, and the three of them together around an old tree stump make a nice cover for our bird feeder. The birds love sitting in the branches, waiting in line while their mates or friends use the feeder. And the flowers, so gorgeous, are covered in bees in the spring. Mine are in full sun (in north Florida) and they thrive there. Shade or sun, I guess they’re happy just about anywhere.
Beverly Richmond says
I, like Brian, am concerned about our Deutzia. It is over 45 years old, reaches up to the second story window, has very large stalks, but appears to be dying. I’ll try starting some cuttings and do more pruning. Help? Is it just too old?
I have one of these beauties that is thriving. It came with my house 32 years ago and I’m in Zone 5. It handles the winter quite well and flowers for at least two weeks in June. I prune it back to keep it from going wild after flowering and each year it looks better. It’s in the shade of an 80 ft spruce.
Christine Dennison says
Just bought for few pounds a root of this plant… so glad it’s an old fashioned beauty I’m already dreaming of it in full bloom…hope it won’t take too many years as I’m in my sixties…here’s hoping..
I’m in need of this Flowering Bush. Deutzia scabia. There was a large one of these planted in the late 30’s on cottage property in Lexington Michigan. Unfortunately, it was destroy when clearing out invasive vines. My heart is broken. Do you have cuttings or know where I can get this precious flowering bush?
I appreciate any help.
Robin Jelley says
I bought my first deutzia scabra at a food store in Lacey Township, NJ in the late 1970’s. When we sold the house and moved to Alton, VA in 2004 I went nuts trying to find the plant. I have found other deutzias at the Columbus Flea Market nursery in NJ but I still have not gotten my deutzia scabra. I am so happy I found your site and saw the “snowflake” flowers I love so much.
I tried the website above but they are out of stock. So I will keep looking.
Amy Dolego says
When I bought my circa 1775 home in Ct in 2008, I had no idea what these large shrubs were. I have 3 that are 10′-15′ high and laden with white blooms every year…gorgeous! Since I was thinking of propagating them, it was great to Google the plant and come upon your site. One of my Deutzia’s self propagated 2 years ago and it’s now about 6′ high! It must love the conditions. It’s also good to know that they tolerate shade. Since I have 6 acres, with some parts more densely shaded, I am going to try to propagate in these areas. It will be interesting to see how they fare because I have 3 black walnut trees in this area and it’s hard to grow flowers…it will be an interesting experiment!
Joan Charischak says
I absolutely love this plant!!! Our story is the same as yours. In 1988 we bought a 65 year old home in White Plains,NY. How lucky we were that one of the 3 previous owners had planted a Deutzia Scabra on either side of the house, each in full view from dining room and kitchen picture windows. At least 10 – 15′ tall and 6 – 8′ wide, they bloomed wonderfully every May for the 29 years we owned the house. To my knowledge they are still blooming! Now, two years in a different home in Hyde Park. The first plant I searched for was this one. I have 4 young ones growing on our property – having been lucky enough to find them online at Lebeaubamboo.com. Can’t wait for them to reach full height! Pair them with an underplanting of pink shrub roses and you’ll have a delightful old fashioned profusion of color in May and early June.
Rosemary Boyd-Mercer says
Hi there………….. I have just started clearing the border in the front garden of my bungalow in Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex (England). One of the bushes had died so it was pulled outand I went hunting in the back garden for another bush to replace it. I found a Deutzia Scabra which I potted last year and I did not have a clue what it looked like……….so I looked it up on line and found your website! The Deutzia Scabra in flourishing in buds and is not planted in the border so I am now looking forward to a mass of white blooms. Thank you for your website Kevin.
14th March 2018 @16.47pm
I just got one from lidle £1.50 what a bargain.
Lynn Riley says
I live in Medford Oregon but am visiting the coastal town of Bandon Oregon. I was wandering thru this enchanting family-owned nursery, called 101 Plants & Things. I noticed several 1-gallon Deutzia sitting there. I’d never seen or heard of it before, and I’m a long-time gardener. I quickly grabbed up one and now after reading your website, I’m going back for several more. I love the oldtime plants my grandma used to have in her yard. My garden is filled with coral bells, shasta daisies, bleeding hearts, fuschias, hostas, columbine and lobelia. Thanks for the great website. Keep gardening Kevin!
Sheila Sussman says
Finally, thanks to your website, I have discovered what my lovely bushes are! I see them all around the neighborhood, too – in the older gardens as you said. None in the newer gardens. I took a frond to several nurseries and they had no idea! I saw a huge one in Kew Gardens woodland garden but it had no name tag. Did you know that if you put cut canes with seeds on in the fire, they make great popping noises? I’m so thankful for your post about this shrub, it’s been a mystery to me for 13 years.
Karen Armitage says
Not sure if anybody is reading this. We have a large bush in outer garden and think it as it’s optimum height of 10ft. It gives us great pleasure every May, June and I to July when it is Karen with bright white flowers with a blush of pink.
I am in Spokane, WA and have this plant. It’s gorgeous! My mom planted it years ago and we never knew it’s official name. Thank you! Id include a picture if it was possible.
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Anne – I was born in Spokane! So glad you have and enjoy this gorgeous plant.