Spireas are a diverse group of flowering shrubs that are a garden favorite. Coming in a range of sizes, colors, and forms, there are plenty of options to choose from with these hardy, easy-to-grow shrubs. Some of the old-fashioned varieties of spirea such as bridal wreath, with its timeless elegance and delicate cascading branches covered in frothy white blooms, have been around for decades. However, the old-fashioned varieties can take a lot of space and look best when not pruned. New varieties work well in suburban yards where colors and size are important.
Garden Plans For Spirea
Spirea japonica is probably the most commonly seen and used today. It has a much more manageable size and comes in an assortment of colored foliage and even has a variety of bloom colors. The shape of these types of spirea is much more dense and short. They form almost perfect ball hedges that can easily be pruned back to the ground each year to encourage a fresh new spurt of growth. This also helps to prevent them from getting a hollow center, where most of the old growth in the middle of the plant no longer puts out growth and just the tips leaf out.
The foliage colors are also much more interesting in this group. Many of the most popular varieties are offered in orange and gold leaf color, many times with a purple cast to the bottoms of the leaves creating a nice multi-color effect. Blooms tend to be of a bright, glowing pink that pops against the light gold foliage.
Betulifolia spirea has leaves that resemble miniature birch leaves, which is where it gets its name. This is a great multi-season shrub. Its foliage is covered in white flowers in the spring, with an occasional off-season bloom. Then the best show comes in the fall, when the foliage glows with fiery colors of autumn; orange, purples and yellows look as though they are lit from within as the nights cool down. Much like the japonicas, this spirea can also be sheared to keep them nice and neat, and should be done just after the blooms fade.
Spirea Care Must-Knows
All of the different spirea have fairly similar site requirements. They will ultimately be happiest in full sun with good drainage, but if pushed, they can manage in some shade.
More Varieties of Spirea
'Anthony Waterer' spirea
This variety of Spiraea japonica grows into a 3-foot-tall mound with deep rosy pink flowers in spring. Zones 4-9.
'Little Princess' spirea
This type of Spiraea japonica forms a dense mound 2 feet tall and 3 feet wide. Rose pink flowers in spring. Zones 4-9.
Spiraea japonica 'Goldflame' is a small shrub to 2 to 3 feet high, with orange-gold tinted new growth that softens to light green in summer, then copper-orange in fall. It bears pink flowers in early summer. Zones 4-9.
Spiraea nipponica 'Snowmound' bears white flowers that almost smother the branches in early summer. It forms a fast-growing, mounding shrub 3 feet tall and 5 feet wide. Zones 4-8.
This variety of Spiraea betulifolia is a wonderful addition to the spirea family. Clean blue/green foliage gives way to white blooms and glowing red/orange fall color. 2-3 feet tall and wide, zones 4-8.
'Van Houtte' spirea
Spirea x vanhouttei 'Van Houtte' forms a vase-shaped shrub to 6 feet tall and wide, bearing white flowers in mid-spring. Zones 4-8.
This Spiraea japonica selection bears bright pink spring flowers and grows 5 feet tall and wide. Zones 4-9.
'Bridal Wreath' spirea
Spiraea prunifolia 'Bridal Wreath' bears tiny double white flowers on bare branches early in spring, before the glossy green leaves appear. Some red fall color. Zones 5-9.