Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

A Floridata Plant Profile 1159 Zenobia pulverulenta

Common Names: honeycups, zenobia, dusty zenobia Family: Ericaceae (heath Family)
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Honeycups' common name refers to these white sweetly fragrant blossoms that are attractive to many kinds of butterflies, bees and others.


Honeycups is a deciduous or tardily deciduous shrub to 6 ft (2 m) tall with willowy arching branches that can spread almost as wide as the bush is tall. This is a bushy shrub that usually grows in colonies from underground runners. The alternate leaves are blue-green and glaucus (suffused with a whitish bloom) beneath. They are oblong, usually toothed on the margins, and about 3 in (7.5 cm) long. The flowers are bell shaped, about an inch (2.5 cm) long, and hang in clusters of 20 or more from stalks about 8 in (20 cm) long that grow upright from the leaf axils. The very attractive flowers are white and sweetly fragrant. The fruit is a dry, five valved capsule. Some plants (formerly known as Z. speciosa) lack the intense glaucus bloom on the leaf undersides and young stems.


Zenobia pulverulenta occurs in shrub bogs, pocosins, Carolina bays, wet pine savannas and swamp edges on the Coastal Plain in southeastern Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina. It is found in association with fetterbush (Lyonia lucida), titi (Cyrilla racemiflora), gallberry (Ilex glabra), sweet gallberry (I. coriacea), and greenbriar (Smilax laurifolia).

Honeycups, endemic to the Coastal Plain of just three southeastern U.S. states, is a typical component of the pocosin flora. A pocosin is a hydric scrub (also called a shrub bog) that grows on acidic, nutrient-poor, poorly drained, peaty or sandy soils on flat topographic plateaus. (Recall that scrubs are plant communities dominated by shrubs, as compared to forests which are dominated by trees, and savannas which are dominated by grasses.) Pocosins, like other scrubs, are subject to periodic natural fires at average intervals of 10-40 years. Between fires, pocosins are dominated by a very dense jumble of evergreen shrubs and vines.


Light: Grow honeycups in sun or partial shade. For the best fall color, position in full sun. Moisture: Honeycups grows naturally in moist, acidic, sandy, soils that are still fairly well drained. It has been reported that once established, honeycups will do just fine in dryer, more typical garden soils. Water regularly in summer and use a fertilizer recommended for acid loving plants, if you fertilize at all. Hardiness: USDA Zones 5 - 8. Although zone 9 is outside its native range, honeycups can probably take the heat. Propagation: Seed should be sown outdoors in winter for germination in spring. Semi-ripe cuttings can be started in summer. Suckers can be removed and used to start new plants.
honeycups shrub
These young honeycups shrubs will grow into 6 ft high mound of gracefully arching stems.


Honeycups is a beautiful and graceful shrub with arching shoots, showy flower clusters, and glaucus blue-gray leaves and young stems. In fall the leaves often turn yellow with reddish tinges. The scented flowers (reminiscent of anise), in showy upright racemes, are long lasting through the summer and attractive to bees and other insects.

Honeycups is another of the several American native, acid loving heaths that do so well and look so good together in the moist, open woodland garden. Grow with wild azaleas (Rhododendron canescens, and others), wild blueberries (Vaccinium elliottii, and others), mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia), fetterbush (Lyonia lucida), and Leucothoe (Leucothoe fontanesiana). Some other attractive American native shrubs that aren’t in the Ericaceae but also fit in with these both artistically and ecologically are sweetshrub (Calycanthus floridus), dwarf fothergilla (Fothergilla gardenii), sweet pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia), Florida anise (Illicium floridanum), yellow anise (I. parviflorum), sweetspire (Itea virginica), titi (Cyrilla racemiflora), and gallberry (Ilex glabra). With such a shrub garden you’ll enjoy flowers and fragrances all spring, summer and fall, and many American native butterflies, bees and other insects will appreciate your consideration.

Honeycups blooms from buds that form on last year’s wood, so do any necessary pruning immediately after flowering. Adapted to a plant community that periodically burns to the ground, honeycups has no problem recovering from extreme pruning, even mowing.


Zenobia is a monotypic genus (just one species) in the heath family which includes some 70 genera and 2000 species worldwide. Honeycups is often available in native plant nurseries and there are even some named selections to be found.

Steve Christman 8/21/12

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Zenobia species profiled on Floridata:

Zenobia pulverulenta

( honeycups, zenobia, dusty zenobia )

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