Expert advice for growing healthy spirea

Expert advice for growing healthy spirea

Spirea is a versatile and hardy plant that can enhance the look of any garden. Here are some expert tips on getting the most from your spirea plants.

Get to know spirea

  • Spireas are a varied group of plants grown for their attractive foliage, graceful habit and charming flower clusters.
  • They have small, slightly fuzzy flowers in white, pink and red.
  • While there are many species and cultivars, there are basically only two types: those that bloom in spring to early summer and those that bloom in summer.
  • Both share a care-free nature and are very easy to grow.

Make spirea part of your garden plan

  • Spireas are also easy to use in the landscape.
  • They make a valuable addition to foundation groupings, especially when planted among shrubs with dark foliage.
  • Mound-forming types make a neatly shaped filler for shrub and flower borders, or can be massed as a ground cover.
  • Those with arching habits make graceful specimens and are dense enough to be grouped into a hedge.

Choose a variety

  • Both bridalwreath and Vanhoutte spirea have 1.5- to 1.8-metre-long arched stems studded with white flowers. They’re also quite cold tolerant, being hardy to Zone 4.
  • Japanese spirea is a compact, mounding summer blooming shrub. The plants are covered with airy clusters of dusty pink flowers.
  • Varieties grown for their flowers include ‘Anthony Waterer,’ a favourite with crimson blossoms, and ‘Shirobana,’ which produces white and rose flowers in the same cluster.
  • Other Japanese spirea are valued for their foliage. ‘Goldflame’ has yellow leaves contrasting with pink flowers. All are hardy to Zone 3.

Prepare the ground

  • Spirea grows quickly when planted in early spring.
  • Amend planting holes with organic matter, like compost or leaf mold, and set plants at the same depth at which they grew in their containers.
  • In alkaline soils, also work a small handful of garden sulphur into planting holes.
  • Spirea needs slightly acidic conditions. If the pH is too high, green-leaved types will develop yellow leaves.

Help them flourish

  • After planting, cover the plant’s root area with an eight centimetre (three inch) layer of mulch. This reduces evaporation from the soil.
  • Water as needed to keep it barely moist the first season.
  • Once established, bridalwreath types need no special care.
  • Japanese spirea benefits from a light feeding with an organic or timed-release, balanced fertilizer each spring.
  • Aphids may occasionally infest plants, but these sap-sucking insects can be knocked off foliage with a strong spray of water. Or, apply insecticidal soap as directed on the label.

Prune during the season

  • Neither type of spirea demands attentive pruning, but it’s important to preserve flower buds when grooming the plants.
  • Spring bloomers set flowers on old wood, so the best time to prune is after the flowering period has ended.
  • To maintain its natural arching shape, prune out old woody stems near the base of the plant.
  • Thin crowded stems by cutting them back to various lengths for a more natural appearance.
  • Japanese spirea blooms on new wood, so you can prune as much or as little as you like in early spring.
  • In cold climates, prune winter-damaged stems to the ground.

Spirea are a hardy and versatile plant that can perform many different functions in your garden. Be sure to find a variant that works for your garden, and keep it well-maintained throughout its life. If you do, the results could be well worth the effort.

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