Spirea shrubs are adaptable and easy to care for. Their basic form is a natural mound so most varieties need little pruning. The two types are 1) the old fashioned Bridal Veils that grow to 6 feet tall and wide with arching white flowers in the spring and 2) the generally smaller, woody flowering shrubs. The smaller Spireas have white, pink or red flowers on upright branches.
Since they are members of the rose plant family, they can be susceptible to similar problems such as powdery mildew, fireblight, aphids and scale. Some Spirea varieties bloom on this year’s growth and others bloom on last year’s stems.
The compact Spireas can be used as shrubs in a tidy row in rock gardens, as hedges, or placed into flower beds individually or in drifts of 3 or 5.
Since they can take some shade, they make a good selection in foundation plantings. After the first year, when their roots are established, they don’t need much fertilizer or water. In fact, wet soil is the one condition they cannot tolerate.
All Spireas are deciduous and lose their leaves in the winter. Most bloom between March and May in our area. Some varieties will produce a second set of flowers if the worn out blooms are pruned off.
Spirea ulmaria, Meadowsweet, is one of the plants that contain acetylsalicylic acid, a derivative of salicylic acid. Acetyl and Spirea inspired the name of aspirin which was originally taken from plants.
There are 80 Spireas so only a few can be listed here. The common name and the Latin name are provided since some catalogs use one or the other. You can choose the variety that is best for your needs based on their mature size. Then, you can select the leaf and flower color that complement your garden plan.
Spirea nipponica Snowmound has white flowers in early summer. Grows 3 feet tall and wide. Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit plant.
Spirea Snow Storm, Spiraea x media Darnstorm, has white flowers that are replaced by blue-green leaves. Matures to 4 feet tall.
Vanhoutte Spirea, Spiraea x vanhouttei, was first introduced to the gardening public in 1862. It matures to 6-feet tall and 8-feet wide. The white flowers cascade in the spring. Gerald Klingaman wrote an interesting history of Vanhoutte at http://bit.ly/lcNCLl.
Meadowsweet, Spiraea latifolia Alba, is a native variety that can tolerate damp soil. It can grow 5-feet tall with white flowers.
Pink Parasols Spirea, Spireae fritschiana, has large pink flowers in the spring and fall leaf color. Grows 3 feet tall.
Double Bridal Wreath Meadowsweet, Spiraea cantoniensis, has springtime white flowers. It matures at 6-feet tall and 10-feet wide.
Prune Spirea shrubs after they bloom and before seasonal growth.
If you could use a few carefree flowering shrubs in the landscape, check out the Spireas available.