What's in Bloom?

Japanese Spirea

01/01/0001 - 01/01/0001


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Japanese Spirea

 Spiraea thunbergii  

Japanes spirea is native to China, but is also a popular landscape shrub in Japan and the southeastern U.S.  It is usually the first spirea to bloom in the early spring.  

 Attributes: Japanese spirea is a graceful and wispy little shrub with a very fine texture and vase-shape. The slender wiry branches arch outward and nod downward, forming a twiggy, multi-stemmed mound 5-6ft (1.5-1.8 m) tall and about as wide. The semi-deciduous pale green leaves are thin and wispy, a little more than 1 in (2.5 cm) long and 1/4 in (0.6 cm) wide, with a few coarse teeth along the margins. The dainty pure white five-petaled flowers are borne singly or in clusters of two or three along the stems and are an excellent choice for forcing indoors. They are about a 1/3 in (0.8 cm) across and appear before the new leaves in late winter or early spring, often covering the whole shrub.  In autumn the leaves turn a yellow-orange color, which is showy and very effective against a dark green background.

 Growing Tips: Japanese spirea blooms on the previous season's growth, so do any pruning immediately after flowering, before next year's flower buds develop. Remove old, nonproductive stems at ground level to stimulate vigorous new growth and to keep the plant from becoming too leggy and open, creating an unkept appearance.  Never shear a spirea across the top. Cut out dead stem tips anytime of year. Japanese spirea performs best in full sun, but does quite well in partial shade, especially in warmer climates.   It likes a well drained soil and has ordinary water requirements and tolerates summertime dry spells well. This spirea is an extremely hardy little shrub in Zones 4-8 and one that may not lose its leaves in mild winters. Japanese spirea blooms most profusely in cooler climates, usually flowering all at once in a splendid profusion of white blossoms. Here in the mid-south, Japanese spirea tends to start blooming sporadically in January or February and the flowering season is more spread out.

 Landscape Value:  Japanese spirea can be used in group or massed plantings. It makes a good screen or background.  Its fine textured leaves make a good contrast with larger leafed shrubs.  At the Memphis Botanic Garden, this shrub can be seen in both the Sensory Garden and Japanese Garden.

Article by Jeff Reynolds, Horticulture Assistant, Memphis Botanic Garden Photo Credit:  Wendy Robson  


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