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Spirea Shrubs: Flowering Stars for Year-Round Interest

Spirea Shrubs

With showy blooms and vibrant foliage, Spirea Shrubs are low-maintenance superstars for brightening up gardens year-round. Get tips on varieties, care and design ideas.

When it comes to easy-care Spirea Shrubs that deliver multi-season interest, spirea are true all-stars! These tough, hardy plants kick off the show with clusters of brightly colored flowers in spring. But the fun doesn’t stop there. Many varieties keep the color coming with vibrant spring, summer and fall foliage too.

From borders and foundations to hedges and mass plantings, there’s a spirea suited for basically any sunny spot in the landscape. With such an amazing variety to choose from, it’s easy to find the perfect size and style to complement your garden design.

Whether you love tidy, compact shrubs or more free-flowing specimens, these low-maintenance beauties are guaranteed to steal the spotlight with their extended color show. Let’s take a closer look at why spirea reign supreme in the shrub world.

Here’s a concise information chart about spirea shrubs:

Botanical NameSpiraea spp.
Plant TypeDeciduous shrub
Zones3-9 (varies by species and cultivar)
ExposureFull sun to partial shade
Bloom TimeSpring to summer
Height/SpreadHeight: 2-10 feet Spread: 2-10 feet

What are Spirea Shrubs?

Spirea Spirea Shrubs: Flowering Stars for Year-Round Interest

Spirea (also spelled spiraea) is a diverse genus of over 100 species of deciduous shrubs in the rose family. Both spring-blooming and summer-blooming types exist, featuring dense clusters of tiny flowers in hues of pink, red, white and yellow.

Native to temperate regions across the Northern Hemisphere, most spirea cultivars grow as upright mounds or mounding shrubs between 2-6 feet tall and wide. A few varieties remain compact at just 1-2 feet high, while others can reach up to 8 feet.

While the spring and summer flowers are certainly showy, it’s the foliage that often steals the spotlight with many spirea introductions. Leaves emerge in brilliant shades of orange, yellow, red or purple for an electric pop of color in the garden.

Many spirea cultivars now feature colorful foliage that persists through summer before shifting to equally vivid fall hues of red, orange, yellow or burgundy. When combined with their blooms, that’s multi-season visual interest that can’t be beat!

Benefits of Growing Spirea

 Spirea Shrubs: Flowering Stars for Year-Round Interest

Beyond their spectacular flower power and dynamic foliage, spirea shrubs offer a wealth of additional benefits for landscaping, including:

  • Extremely cold hardy down to zone 3 or 4
  • Pollution and salt tolerant
  • Drought-tolerant once established
  • Long bloom periods ranging up to 3 months
  • Rapid, vigorous growth rate to fill in areas quickly
  • Suitable for a wide range of soil conditions
  • Many compact sizes available for small gardens
  • Few pest or disease issues requiring low maintenance

With such reliable performance across a wide range of growing conditions, it’s no wonder spirea rank as one of the most popular shrub choices! They’re essentially idiot-proof when given a sunny location.

While stems can look a bit messy when bare in winter, that small tradeoff comes with a tremendous payoff from spring through fall. Plus, annual pruning quickly rejuvenates them each season.

Planting and Growing Spirea

Getting spirea shrubs off to a great start is easy! Follow these simple tips:

Site Selection

Spirea-Shrubs-Site-Selection Spirea Shrubs: Flowering Stars for Year-Round Interest

Spirea greatly prefer full sun locations to maximize their flowering potential and keep their vibrant leaf colors glowing. At minimum, they need 6 hours of direct sun exposure per day.

Well-drained soil is also ideal for preventing issues like root rot. Amend dense clay soils with compost, small gravel or bark chips to improve drainage and aeration before planting.

With that said, spirea can adapt to a variety of soil conditions ranging from sand to loam as long as they don’t stay constantly wet. Most types also tolerate slightly alkaline conditions too.

Planting Steps

 Spirea Shrubs: Flowering Stars for Year-Round Interest

Space spirea shrubs according to their expected mature size, typically 3-4 feet apart for smaller types and 5-6 feet for larger varieties. Spring and fall are the optimal times to plant.

Dig a hole twice as wide as the rootball but no deeper. Set the plant at the same level as the surrounding soil surface and backfill with the existing site soil, tamping lightly to remove air pockets.

Finish by spreading 2-3 inches of organic mulch like bark or pine needles over the planting area to conserve moisture and prevent weeds. Provide regular irrigation for the first season to get new plants established.

Ongoing Care Requirements

 Spirea Shrubs: Flowering Stars for Year-Round Interest

Once settled in, most spirea are remarkably resilient and can survive on little to no supplemental water thanks to their excellent drought tolerance. Only irrigate during periods of extended summer heat and dry spells.

While they’ll grow well in average, fertile garden soils, spirea planted in poor ground may require occasional fertilization. Apply a balanced granular fertilizer or top-dressing of compost or manure in early spring before new growth emerges.

To maintain density and vigor, it’s important to prune spirea shrubs annually each spring before budbreak. Thin out excessive interior growth and remove any dead or damaged stems from winter by pruning back to just 6-12 inches from the ground.

Renewal pruning can also be performed on mature spirea every few years by cutting off the entire shrub close to the ground to rejuvenate growth from the base over the coming season.

With over 80 species and literally hundreds of hybrid cultivars to choose from, here are just a few of the top-rated and most unique spirea varieties:

Spring Bloomers

Spring-Bloomers Spirea Shrubs: Flowering Stars for Year-Round Interest

Bridal Wreath Spirea (S. prunifolia) – The classic old-fashioned bridal wreath with masses of pure white blooms adorning arching branches each spring.

Double Play Candy Corn (S. betulifolia) – Intense red spring foliage fades to yellow with red highlights for summer. Crimson fall tones too.

Goldmound Spirea (S. japonica) – A compact 2-3 ft mound covered in hot pink blooms against golden foliage that turns bronzy-orange in fall.

Neon Flash Spirea (S.betulifolia) – Amazing spring growth is electric red-orange before turning green for summer then fiery red in autumn.

Tiger Sweet (S. thunbergii) – Yellow spring leaves transition to orange and red with white flowers. Petite, rounded 2-3 ft habit.

Summer Bloomers

 Spirea Shrubs: Flowering Stars for Year-Round Interest

Bridalwreath Spiraea (S. x arguta) – Flat clusters of bright white blooms smother the mounded foliage from May-June.

Goldflame Spirea (S. x bumalda) – Dazzling rust-red growth emerges in spring followed by hot pink flowers on rounded mounds. Bright yellow fall foliage.

Neon Flash (S. japonica) – In summer, fiery red plumes add brilliant contrast to the purple-tinged foliage on this compact 2-3 ft shrub.

Renaissance Spirea (S. x bumalda) – A unique bicolor show with vibrant bright red flower clusters over eye-catching yellow foliage.

Tor Spirea (S. betulifolia) – Cascades of huge white blooms on this large spreading shrub with yellow and bronze foliage tones.

Other Notable Varieties

 Spirea Shrubs: Flowering Stars for Year-Round Interest

Double Play Painted Lady (S. nipponica) – Vibrant red spring foliage fades to yellow then bursts into hot pink blooms in summer.

Dakota Goldcharm (S. japonica) – Canary-yellow foliage all season with white clustered blooms. Stays compact at just 1-2 ft tall.

Magic Carpet (S. japonica) – Tight carpets of ruby-red foliage on this dwarf 18″ groundcover trailer. Soft pink summer flowers.

Norman Spirea (S. japonica) – This classic rounded mound is covered in fuchsia-red blooms in summer atop lime green leaves.

As you can see, there are spirea varieties to suit any desired aesthetic, whether you prefer compact shrubs or more spreading forms, vividly-colored foliage or floral fireworks. With their easy maintenance and versatility, it’s easy to see why spirea are in a league of their own!

Designing with Spirea Shrubs

 Spirea Shrubs: Flowering Stars for Year-Round Interest

These multi-talented workhorses are perfect for injecting effortless color from spring through fall wherever it’s needed. Here are some popular landscaping ideas:

  • Mass in sweeping drifts or informal groupings for eye-catching curb appeal
  • Plant as flowering hedges or informal borders between taller shrub plantings
  • Use in foundation plantings around your home’s exterior
  • Incorporate into decorative garden beds, annual gardens or perennial borders
  • Flank entryways or define space by planting in pairs on each side

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