Symphony Of Spirea

from Garden Shed
Spirea is an easy-growing shrub with a range of foliage and bloom colors. Learn the basics of growing the plant, including how to prune spirea.

Sweet Spring Blooms
Like many gardeners, you may remember picking the tiny white nosegays of bridal wreath spirea when you were a child. Although a long-time favorite, not all gardens can accommodate the mature size of the spring-blooming spireas, nostalgia notwithstanding. The most common bridal wreath type of spirea, Vanhoutte spirea (Spiraea vanhouttei) easily grows 6–10 feet tall and just as wide, with an arching shape. Fortunately, there are beautiful cultivars with more compact habits that also resist the foliar diseases that sometimes attack spirea. All bridal wreath types listed here have white flowers.
  • Double Reeves spirea (S. cantoniensis ‘Lanceata’) has double, pure white flowers and blue-green leaves on 3- to 6-foot-tall plants.
  • Snowmound spirea (S. nipponica ‘Snowmound’) grows 3–5 feet tall and is covered with flowers in spring.
  • Baby’s-breath spirea (S. thunbergii) has lacy white flowers on 3- to 5-foot leafless stems. ‘Mt. Fuji’ has variegated foliage.
  • S. prunifolia ‘Plena’ has double white flowers and grows to 7 feet tall. Its fall foliage is a lovely orange-red.

Summer Beauties
Frequently planted along foundations or in mixed borders, colorful summer-blooming spireas are compact plants with flat-top, pale pink, deep pink, or white flowers. Many of the summer-blooming types will produce flowers more than once during the growing season, especially if faded flowers are removed. Bright gold, chartreuse, or even reddish foliage is yet another reason to love these plants. Adaptable to various soil and moisture conditions, these spireas are generally hardy to Zones 3 or 4–8. In fact, the extreme adaptability of one species, Spiraea japonica, has proven to be a problem in some areas of the North America.

  • Spiraea bumalda ‘Anthony Waterer’ is probably the best-known summer-blooming spirea, and has been available to gardeners since 1890. The leaves emerge as bronzy red and mature to blue-green as flat-top, carmine-pink flowers appear in early summer. It typically grows 3–4 feet tall and 4–6 feet wide. A similar plant, ‘Crispa’, has serrated and twisted leaves.
  • Spiraea japonica ‘Little Princess’ has pale pink flowers on 2- to 3-foot tall plants. Its cousin ‘Shirobana’ features bicolor pink-and-white flowers.
  • Distinctive golden foliage is the specialty of another group of summer-blooming spirea. Spiraea bumalda ‘Goldflame’, is the forebearer of many of today’s most popular golden spireas. The new leaves of ‘Goldflame’ emerge a coppery red before maturing to chartreuse, and it bears dark pink flowers. In fall, the leaves become a warm bronze color.
  • Spiraea japonica ‘Goldmound’, ‘Golden Princess’, ‘Limemound’, ‘Candlelight’, and ‘Magic Carpet’ are noted for their smaller size (generally under 3 feet), and more consistent yellow foliage color than ‘Goldflame’. If yellow leaves with pink flowers strike a dissonant chord, ask your local garden center about ‘White Gold’. This cultivar combines chartreuse foliage and flat-top white flowers.

Easy To Care For, Easy To Grow
Spireas are adaptable, fast-growing, and easy to maintain.

  • Plant spring-blooming bridal wreath types in partial shade. Summer-blooming spireas produce the most flowers and best color in full sun, but will grow well in partial shade. All spireas prefer moist, but well-drained soil.
  • The spring-blooming bridal wreath types bloom on old wood and should be pruned only to maintain a natural shape and reasonable size. Prune shortly after all the plants’ flowers fade.
  • Summer-blooming spireas generally bloom on new growth. Prune them in late winter or early spring before the leaves emerge. Deadheading of spent flowers during the summer not only prevents the formation of seed, but also encourages repeat bloom later in the season.



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