Virginia Sweetspire, Itea virginica

January 9, 2020

By Matt

Did You Know?

Butterflies, bees, and other pollinators LOVE Virginia sweetspire!

Virginia Sweetspire Flowers   
Credit: https://www.provenwinners.com/plants/itea/little-henry-sweetspire-itea-virginica

Snapshot

Virginia Sweetspire Shrub
  • Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica) is a deciduous shrub native to the East Coast. It has slender, gracefully arching branches, and forms mounds 3 to 5 feet in height with a similar spread. 
  • In May and June, the branches are covered with tiny white flowers that grow in long, bottle-brush spires.
  • The fragrant blooms are showy and long lasting, and provide nectar for butterflies and other pollinators. 
  • The leaves are deep green in spring and summer. In fall, the leaves turn orange, scarlet, and burgundy. 

What Makes Virginia Sweetspire So Awesome?

A versatile, low-maintenance plant, Virginia sweetspire is all reward and little work. Its fragrant flower spikes attract butterflies and other pollinators. The lush green foliage is beautiful in rain gardens and makes an excellent foundation plant for perennial borders. It provides brilliant, long-lasting fall color, sometimes retaining its leaves until early winter.

Effective in mass plantings, Virginia sweetspire is easy to divide, and spreads readily via suckers, making it an excellent shrub border or bushy ground cover for erosion-prone areas. It performs well in difficult locations: wet soil near ponds and streams, low spots with poor drainage, and hard-to-maintain areas like ravines, uneven terrain, and slopes.

How Can I Grow One?

Virginia sweetspire prefers moist, rich soil with plenty of organic matter, but tolerates a wide range of soil conditions. It has a tendency to sucker, especially in wet soil, so consider planting in a moist area that needs to be filled in. Suckers are more easily curbed in dryer soil, but are still easy to propagate if desired. 

Grow in full sun for the most vibrant fall color, but Virginia sweetspire also does well in part shade, and makes a good addition to an informal woodland garden. Plants will grow taller and leggier in shade, and flower production will be somewhat reduced. Blooms are produced on the previous year’s growth, so prune plants right after flowering so there’s time for wood to develop for the following bloom season. 

Plants can tolerate occasional drought once established, but provide adequate water during the first year. Virginia sweetspire is deer resistant and has no serious pest or disease problems. It prefers acidic soil with a pH of 5.0 to 6.5, and alkaline soils can cause cause iron chlorosis. Virginia sweetspire grows in USDA Zones 5 through 9. 

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