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Leucothoe axillaris Dog Hobble, Coastal Leucothoe

Edward F. Gilman, Ryan W. Klein, and Gail Hansen


This graceful and informal shrub may grow 2 to 6 feet in height and may spread 6 to 10 feet. Its arching stoloniferous stems support large, glossy, evergreen leaves. These dark green leaves turn to a purple-green color in the winter. The April flowers of coastal leucothoe are very small and occur in bell-shaped racemes. These flowers are white or pinkish-white and are borne in the leaf axils. The fruits of this shrub are inconspicuous capsules.

Full Form - Leucothoe axillaris: Dog hobble, coastal leucothoe.
Figure 1. Full Form - Leucothoe axillaris: Dog hobble, coastal leucothoe.
Credit: Edward F. Gilman, UF/IFAS


Full Form - Leucothoe axillaris: Dog hobble, coastal leucothoe.
Figure 2. Leaf - Leucothoe axillaris: Dog hobble, coastal leucothoe.
Credit: Edward F. Gilman, UF/IFAS

General Information

Scientific name: Leucothoe axillaris

Pronunciation: loo-KAHTH-oh-ee ack-sil-LAIR-iss

Common name(s): dog hobble, coastal leucothoe, coastal doghobble

Family: Ericaceae

Plant type: shrub

USDA hardiness zones: 5B through 9 (Figure 3)

Planting month for zone 7: year-round

Planting month for zone 8: year-round

Planting month for zone 9: year-round

Origin: native to Florida

Invasive potential: not known to be invasive

Uses: mass planting; ground cover; border

Availability: grown in small quantities by a small number of nurseries

Shaded area represents potential planting range.
Figure 3. Shaded area represents potential planting range.


Height: 2 to 6 feet

Spread: 6 to 10 feet

Plant habit: spreading

Plant density: dense

Growth rate: moderate

Texture: medium


Leaf arrangement: alternate

Leaf type: simple

Leaf margin: serrate; serrulate

Leaf shape: ovate

Leaf venation: pinnate

Leaf type and persistence: evergreen

Leaf blade length: less than 2 inches

Leaf color: green

Fall color: purple

Fall characteristic: showy


Flower color: white; pinkish white

Flower characteristic: spring flowering; inconspicuous and not showy


Fruit shape: oval

Fruit length: less than 0.5 inch

Fruit cover: dry or hard

Fruit color: brown

Fruit characteristic: inconspicuous and not showy

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: typically multi-trunked or clumping stems; not particularly showy

Current year stem/twig color: brown

Current year stem/twig thickness: thin


Light requirement: plant grows in the shade

Soil tolerances: occasionally wet; acidic; sand; loam; clay

Drought tolerance: moderate

Soil salt tolerances: poor

Plant spacing: 36 to 60 inches


Roots: usually not a problem

Winter interest: plant has winter interest due to unusual form, nice persistent fruits, showy winter trunk, or winter flowers

Outstanding plant: not particularly outstanding

Pest resistance: very sensitive to one or more pests or diseases which can affect plant health or aesthetics

Use and Management

Coastal leucothoe is outstanding in masses and is a good choice for enclosed city gardens. It is commonly used in the landscape as a specimen, ground cover, and border plant. This shrub is also impressive when naturalized along wooded stream banks.

Coastal leucothoe should be grown in a partially or densely shaded site; it grows best in areas that receive morning sunlight. The soil in its natural, bald cypress dome habitat has a high organic matter and silt content and is acidic. This makes dog hobble a good choice for shaded, wet sites. This plant can be rejuvenated into vigorous growth in the center of the plant if the 2- and 3-year-old canes are removed after bloom.

Coastal leucothoe is propagated by seeds and cuttings.

Pests and Diseases

Leaf spots may cause coastal leucothoe to look undesirable; at least 8 species of fungi infect Leucothoe spp. When this plant is grown in conditions that are not ideal, leaf spot will produce ugly lesions that often enlarge and consume the entire leaf. Root rot problems may also occur in wet soil.

Publication #FPS-340

Release Date:February 8, 2024

Related Collections

Part of Shrubs Fact Sheets

Related Topics

  • Critical Issue: 1. Agricultural and Horticultural Enterprises
Organism ID

About this Publication

This document is FPS-340, one of a series of the Department of Environmental Horticulture, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date October 1999. Revised October 2023. Visit the EDIS website at for the currently supported version of this publication.

About the Authors

Edward F. Gilman, professor emeritus; Ryan W. Klein, assistant professor, arboriculture; and Gail Hansen, professor, sustainable landscape design; Department of Environmental Horticulture, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.


  • Gail Hansen de Chapman
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