By Sandra Nelson
This week’s pick is by Philip Grubb, Horticulturist
Graceful in the spring, fragrant in the summer, striking in the fall and structural in the winter, this native deciduous shrub is truly an all-season plant. Virginia Sweetspire (Itea virginica) is easily grown in moist, well-drained soil, making it an ideal choice for the edges of rain gardens, low spots or areas that may occasionally flood. Reaching a mature height and width of only 3 to 5 feet (some cultivars reach only 2 feet), it does well in foundation plantings. Because it spreads easily by suckers, Sweetspire can also be used as a low hedge or for erosion control.
Virginia Sweetspire prefers full sun, but also grows well in part shade. Fragrant white flowers appear in June, with blooms often continuing throughout July. Although it rarely needs pruning, since it blooms on old wood, any shaping should be done immediately after blooming. Spring pruning risks losing flower buds. Be sure and water both thoroughly and consistently during times of extended drought.
Fall temperatures and shortened days turn Sweetspire’s dark green summer foliage into intense shades of red, purple orange and gold. Unlike many deciduous shrubs, Itea’s leaves tend to remain on the reddish-brown branches well into winter.
Deer seem to avoid Virginia Sweetspire, but butterflies and bees love it!