Prepared by Marjan Kluepfel, HGIC Information Specialist, and Bob Polomski, Extension Consumer Horticulturist, Clemson University. (New 05/99. Images added 05/09.)
Spireas (Spiraea species) are among the easiest flowering shrubs to grow. There are two distinct kinds of spireas: the bridal wreath type, with clusters of white flowers on arching branches in spring; and the shrubby, much lower-growing type, which has pink, red or white flowers clustered at the end of upright branches in summer to fall.
Baby's breath spirea, also called thunberg spirea or garland spirea (S. thunbergii) is a showy, graceful shrub, 3 to 5 feet high, with many slender, arching branches. The small, narrow, toothed leaves turn orange in late fall. The tiny white flowers are clustered in the axils along the stems. More than any other spirea, it has a feathery appearance.
Vanhoutte spirea in full bloom
Joey Williamson, ©2008 HGIC, Clemson Extension
Vanhoutte spirea (S. vanhouttei), the classic bridal wreath spirea, is a deciduous broadleaf shrub that can grow 6 to 10 feet high and spread as much as 20 feet wide. The small leaves are blue-green in summer with no fall color. Masses of small, white flower clusters cover the plant in the spring.
Flower clusters of Vanhoutte spirea.
Karen Russ, ©2008 HGIC, Clemson Extension
Reeves spirea (S. cantoniensis) is a double-flowered white bridal wreath. The shrub grows 5 to 6 feet tall. In the Upper South the small green leaves may turn red in fall. Elsewhere, they remain on the plant without changing color.
Bumalda spireas (S. x bumalda, a cross between S. albiflora and S. japonica) are all low, shrubby spireas, which bloom in summer to fall. They grow 2 to 3 feet tall and slightly wider and have pink or white flowers depending on the variety.
Spireas grow very fast.
Spireas are valued for their form and flowers. They are used as a specimen plant or as a hedge, screen, or border.
Spireas are easy to transplant. Spring or fall is the best planting time. The shrub prefers partial to full sun. Plant in full sun and open areas for best flowering. Spireas are tolerant of many soils except those that are extremely wet. The plant also likes mulch and summer watering. After flowering has finished, prune the mostly spring-blooming, bridal wreath spireas. Thin old and weak canes to the ground annually. Prune the summer-blooming, shrubby spireas in winter or early spring. They generally need less severe pruning than bridal wreath spireas. After flowers fade, remove them and a second flush of growth is stimulated, which will result in additional flowers.
Like other members of the rose family, spireas are susceptible to various pests and diseases, but none are serious. Aphids are occasionally a problem in the spring. Japanese Spirea (spiraea japonica) is considered invasive in the Southeast US.
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This information is supplied with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service is implied. All recommendations are for South Carolina conditions and may not apply to other areas. Use pesticides only according to the directions on the label. All recommendations for pesticide use are for South Carolina only and were legal at the time of publication, but the status of registration and use patterns are subject to change by action of state and federal regulatory agencies. Follow all directions, precautions and restrictions that are listed.