What Is Leatherleaf – Learn About Leatherleaf Plant Care

By: Teo Spengler

When a plant’s common name is “leatherleaf,” you expectthick, impressive leaves. But those growing leatherleaf shrubs say that is notthe case. The leaves of the leatherleaf are only a few inches long and onlysomewhat leathery. What is leatherleaf? To learn more about leatherleaf,otherwise known as Chamaedaphnecalyculata, read on. We’ll provide lots of leatherleaf plant info, plustips on how to grow leatherleaf shrubs.

What is Leatherleaf?

Thick, leathery leaves are often an adaptation of naturethat allows plants to survive searing sun and drought. So it may surprise youto learn that this type of leatherleaf is a bogplant, growing in wetlands in the northeastern part of the country,and up through Canada to Alaska.

According to leatherleaf plant information, this shrub hasnarrow, somewhat leathery leaves and huge underground rhizomes. These look likethick roots and, in leatherleaf, they extend up to 12 inches (30 cm.) below theground.

Leatherleaf Plant Information

It’s the rhizomes that allow this woody plant to live in afloating bog. Leatherleaf plant information says that these rhizomes anchor theplants. They, in turn, provide stable habitat for other plants to extend thebog mat.

Leatherleaf is useful in many ways to the bog ecosystem,providing cover for nesting ducks. It is a spreading shrub, forming densethickets. It also produces numerous small, white bell-shaped flowers inspringtime.

How to Grow Leatherleaf Shrubs

If your land contains a bog, a marsh, or a river or lake,you might want to consider growing leatherleaf shrubs. Since their nativehabitat is wetlands, you will probably need wet or very moist areas toestablish the plant.

That doesn’t mean that you need to live by a swamp to growleatherleaf shrubs. Their range seems to be expanding and they can be found inthe wild in areas not directly next to water. For example, some are foundgrowing in a moist pine savanna, near a lake shore but not on it.

Remember that the leatherleaf is a woody plant, with severalstems growing from the rhizome. Perhaps the easiest way to grow the plant is todig up and transplant the rhizome into an appropriate area.

Once you get the plant established, leatherleaf plant careis easy. Leatherleaf plants take care of themselves and require nofertilization or pest treatment.

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Leatherleaf Viburnum

Leatherleaf viburnum is an evergreen shrub that can grow up to 10 to 15 feet high with a comparable spread.

With a rounded, upright growth habit, it grows at a medium fast rate. The puckered leaves grow on fuzzy twigs. The dark green shiny leaves are medium sized with deep veins running through them. The bottom of the leaves is a soft felty gray.

Small clusters of yellowish-white flowers appear in late spring. Small red fruits follow that ripen to a shiny black.

Grow Indoors Where Not Hardy

Leatherleaf fern may be grown indoors in indirect sunlight, such as a north-facing windowsill, in colder climates. Avoid placing the fern near heating vents or south- or west-facing windows as these conditions may scorch the fronds. Choose a container with a hole in the bottom for drainage and soil-less potting mix that is 50 percent peat moss.

Water occasionally, allowing potting media to slightly dry out between waterings. Leatheleaf fern does not have high humidity requirements and does not need to be misted. Fertilize every four to six weeks during the growing season with 3 1/2 to 7 drops of a 10-10-10 fertilizer mixed into 1 quart of water. Repot every few years in the spring, replanting in fresh potting media. Divide large plants by carefully splitting the rhizomes.

  • Leatherleaf fern may be grown indoors in indirect sunlight, such as a north-facing windowsill, in colder climates.
  • Choose a container with a hole in the bottom for drainage and soil-less potting mix that is 50 percent peat moss.

Plants→Chamaedaphne→Leatherleaf (Chamaedaphne calyculata)

General Plant Information (Edit)
Plant Habit:Shrub
Sun Requirements:Full Sun to Partial Shade
Water Preferences: Wet
Wet Mesic
Soil pH Preferences:Very strongly acid (4.5 – 5.0)
Strongly acid (5.1 – 5.5)
Moderately acid (5.6 – 6.0)
Slightly acid (6.1 – 6.5)
Minimum cold hardiness:Zone 3 -40 °C (-40 °F) to -37.2 °C (-35)
Maximum recommended zone:Zone 7b
Plant Height :1 to 3 feet (30-90cm)
Plant Spread :1 to 3 feet (30-90cm)
Flower Color:White
Flower Time:Spring
Underground structures:Rhizome
Suitable Locations:Bog gardening
Uses:Provides winter interest
Pollinators:Various insects
Containers:Suitable in 3 gallon or larger
Conservation status:Least Concern (LC)

Native broadleaf evergreen to eastern Canada, New England, New York, New Jersey, northern Pennsylvania, northeast Ohio, Michigan, northern Indiana, northeast Illinois, Wisconsin, and eastern Minnesota and over in northern Eurasia. It grows in bogs, swamps, and wet shores in draining wet, acid soil. It is a sensitive plant and can die out in landscapes and it is supposed to be short-lived. I bought one from a native nursery near Phoenixville, PA in a 1 gallon pot. I kept it in a big pot for two years where I made the potting soil more acid with iron sulfate. I left the pot out in winter in a sheltered place, but it still died. I should have sunk the pot into the ground and covered with some mulch.

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