Spiraea (Meadowsweet)

Form, functionality, and flash

The Spiraea genus contains about 80 species of fast-growing deciduous shrubs, commonly called spirea or meadowsweet. Japanese spirea (S. japonica) is the most common species; however, there are many hybrids and even some native species available for home gardens, including white meadowsweet (S. alba), Billard’s meadowsweet (S. billardii), and steeplebush (S. tomentosa).

Highly popular landscape plants, these long-lived ornamental shrubs range in height from 1½ to 8 feet, with similar widths. Spireas have attractive freely branching habits with erect or gracefully fountaining stems that are often covered in chartreuse, orange, or bright yellow foliage, sometimes tipped with bright pink or red. But even those with green foliage, may have colorful leaves in spring and/or in fall. The shrubs bloom in an impressive profusion of clustered, white or pink, bee- and butterfly-friendly blossoms in spring or summer, depending on species.

Spireas are tough, cold hardy, highly adaptable, and easy to grow. They aren’t terribly picky about the soil in which they grow, but although they tolerate part shade, they grow and flower best in full sun. Some species are rhizomatous and/or self-seeding and can spread to form dense stands over time. Large varieties make nice specimens and border plants, while smaller varieties are great ground covers.