Spirea bushes are one of the most popular garden bushes.
Its colorful blossoms, dark green foliage, and hardiness to weather make it an excellent plant for void fill, hedging, or edging.
Spirea spp. is extremely easy to grow. It makes a wonderful addition to your garden if you want to instantly add some color without doing tons of extra work.
It’s versatile, easy to care for, resilient, perfect for beginners, and pretty- of course!
Let’s dive in and see how to grow and care for Spirea bushes!
Quick care guide: Spirea
|Plant type||Perennial (zones 4-10), annual (lower zones)|
|Origin||East Asia, Norther Hemisphere|
|Scientific name||Spiraea salicifolia
|Other names||Meadowsweets or steeplebushes|
|Soil type||Fertile, loamy, well-draining, nutrient-dense|
|Soil pH||5.0-6.0 (slightly acidic)|
|Sunlight requirement||Full sun, 6 hours daily|
|Bloom season||Spring to summer depending on variety|
|Colors||Green, pink, white|
|Max height||10 feet|
|Max width||8 feet|
|Low temperature tolerance||-5F|
|High temperature tolerance||85F|
|Ideal temperature range||70-75F|
|Humidity||Moderate (40% or higher)|
|Watering requirements||1-2 gallons per week, but adjust as necessary for weather|
|Fertilizer requirements||Liquid fertilizer during spring and summer as needed, half dosage at first, increase as plant adapts|
|Plant food NPK||10-10-10|
|Days until germination||Many months from seed, up to 8 weeks from cuttings or layerings|
|Days until harvest||Non-harvestable plant|
|Bloom time||Spring to summer|
|Speed of growth||Moderate|
|Hardiness zones||4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10|
|Plant depth||Plant root balls one times the size of itself, but twice the width|
|Plant spacing||10-12 feet per plant|
|Plant with||junipers, weigela, or viburnum, ornamental grasses, peonies, desert agave, firecracker penstemon, forsythia, lavender, or larkspur|
|Don't plant with||Similar plants in the rose family (Rosacae)|
|Propagation method||Cuttings, layering|
|Common pests||Aphids, spider mites|
|Common diseases||Root rot, powdery mildew, blight, papaya mosaic virus, ringspot viruses, fire blight, powdery mildew, tar spots, leaf spot, or other fungal issues|
|Indoor plant||Yes, but only if small size|
|Grown in container||Yes|
|Care level||Low (very easy for beginners)|
|Best uses||Edges, hedges, pathway, mixed beds, flower beds, plots, plant cover, walls, fences, privacy hedges, potted plants|
Spirea spp. is a woody, colorful shrub that fits perfectly into garden landscapes.
The flowers are bright pink with changing colors for the season. The foliage is dark green, which compliments the bright flowers all season.
This shrub is easy to care for with quick growth which makes it perfect for beginners or experts.
Spirea is easily planted in any landscape for hedging, flower beds, or leaf cover.
What does it look like?
These shrubs are deciduous, hardy, and suitable for zones 4-10. They have lanceolate leaves with jagged edges that teeth along the stems.
The plants can flower in summer or spring, so they can be planted in a variety of zones throughout the season.
Spring bloomers produce white flowers while summer shrubs bloom in late June with pink or white flowers.
The flowers are large and perched on strong, upright stems. The flowers are cascading and will grow in a variety of conditions.
Spirea also has nice green foliage throughout the autumn so you have something to grow even off-season.
Spirea means “twisting” in Greek. So now you know exactly where the name comes from. But they don’t really twist per se. The shrub doesn’t get all tangled- they’re only called twisted because the fruits twist.
There are dozens of Spirea, totaling up to 80 plus. Everything from bushy, tall, or compact. They go well with peony, forsythia, lavender, or even desert agave. Larkspur is also a good companion for Spirea busses.
Type of Spirea bushes
There are several types of Spirea cultivar varieties on the market you can choose from.
This list is not extensive but will get you started on your own research.
Here are some of the most popular types of Spirea shrubs in the community.
- Japanese Spirea (popular, 3-8 feet tall, dense foliage, deer resistant, pink flowers)
- Bridal Wreath (tiny white flowers, upright stems, early spring flowering, 8 feet tall, zones 3-8, good for foundations)
- Triumphans (summer bloomer, dark pink flowers)
- Grefshiem (wide branches, freestanding hedge)
- Astilbe (early flowers, 10 feet tall, pink flowers, hedge plant)
- Densiflora (pink flowers, spring blooming)
These are part of the rose family and makes them one of the most popular garden plants.
Busy people like them because they’re super easy to grow. They don’t need special care or TLC. With the right combo, you can get colors all season.
Is Spirea easy to grow?
Spirea shrubs are hardy and resistant to deer.
They’re also good for a wide variety of temperatures as they’re tolerant of cold and heat.
They grow quickly without much care. Even if you’re new to shrubs, Spirea requires no experience to grow well.
It grows easily if you provide just the basic TLC it needs. This is why it’s so popular with gardeners.
Propagating Spirea bushes
There are two main methods of propagation that gardeners use- using cuttings or layering.
Both methods will require that you have existing Spirea bushes. If not, you can ask a neighbor or friend for some fresh cuttings.
If you don’t have either, then buy a pre-grown one from the nursery to get it started.
Once you do, you won’t have to buy another one later on. You can propagate endlessly for a garden full of Spirea bushes!
Let’s go over each method in detail.
When propagating Spirea from cuttings, you have two choices.
Softwood or hardwood. It really depends on the time of the season it currently is. Choose accordingly.
Softwood cuttings can be taken in late summer. This is the ideal time to ensure successful rooting.
Use a stylized pair of pruners (use rubbing alcohol). Find a large stem that’s flexible, but not too small. Cut it so it’s 10 inches in length.
Locate the top 5 inches from the stem tip. Cut off foliage on the bottom of it.
Get a high-quality rooting gel or powder. Dip the cut end into the powder.
Get your planter. It should be at least 8 inches wide with a moist, well-draining potting mix. Mix with 20% pumice or perlite to help drainage.
Place the stem in the center of the pot. It should be upright. Use soil to help keep it up.
You can plant multiple stems in one pot if you want. Align them around the edges.
Cover with a large bag to help keep moisture levels up. Place the pot somewhere with filtered light.
Mist it regularly to keep humidity high. Check regularly for pests or fungus. If you do, restart.
When the leaves sprout, it’s successfully rooted. Replant each stem into its own pot for the winter.
When the cold season has passed, it’s time to move them into your garden!
If you’re not going softwood, then you’re going hardwood.
The right time to propagate Spirea using hardwood cuttings is shortly after softwood. Take hardwood cuttings in the fall.
So even if you miss propagating it in the summer, you still have a good chance to grow it.
Note that hardwood cuttings can be trickier because of the cold. If the temperatures dip too far, it can be too much for your cuttings to take root.
Regardless, make several cuttings to maximize your chance of successful propagation.
Find established stems that are at least 12 inches in length. Use sterilized pruners to cut several stems. They should be free of pests or other visible pathogens.
Locate the leaf nodes on the sides. These look like small, protruding spots where new foliage grows out of.
Trim the stem right above one of these nodes to cut it off. Cut at 45 degrees.
Do another trim on the bottom of the stem, right below another node.
Find somewhere in your garden that has partial sunlight with plenty of space. The soil should be moist.
To save yourself time, choose the permanent location you wish to plant your Spirea. If not, you’ll need to move them again later. It’s up to you.
Dig one hole per cutting. Space each 12 inches apart, 5 inches deep.
Put the stems into the holes. It should be firmly held in place with soil. Pack lightly.
Water it deeply and thoroughly.
Regularly water it when it goes nearly dry. Check for pests or fungus.
New foliage should come out in the springtime. Move them to the location of your choice.
Layering is the easiest way to propagate Spirea in my opinion.
It requires a bit of work, but it’s very effective for successfully propagating Spirea. If you’ve tried propagation using cuttings but aren’t getting results, try layering.
In this technique, the stems remain attached to the host plant while the new roots emerge.
You don’t need to find precise stems to cut. It’s pretty much like growing a new plant while never completely cutting it off.
If you want to propagate by layering, do it in the springtime. It works most effectively when Spirea is in peak growth.
Don’t do it when it enters dormancy in the wintertime because it’ll likely fail.
Here’s how to do it.
Locate an offshoot on the host plant. These look like small, new greens coming off the original plant. The shoot should be flexible, but won’t snap if you bend its shape.
Sterilize a pair of pruners. Cut off the foliage on the portion of it that’ll be buried. You May need to tussle with it if it’s covered with bark because it needs to be cut. You only need about 3 inches of offshoot for it to work.
Use a shovel to create a small trench right under the offshoot. It should be about 1-2 inches deep. The length should be just as long as the shoot.
Grab the shoot, then bend it into the trench. Place it into the trench. Adjust the sizing if needed. But it doesn’t need to be perfect.
Use twist ties, tent pins, or wraps to secure it into the trench you dug. The side that you scraped off the bark needs to be exposed to the soil. Be careful not to snap it.
Give it some water and ensure the soil is moist at all times.
The stem will root over time. Watch for new foliage coming out of the stem. Be patient- it can take up to 8 weeks.
When it’s rooted, prune the offshoot from the original stem and then plant it in your desired location. Use sterilized pruners once again to reduce the risk of infection.
Multiplying Spirea is easy once you get the methods down. This hardy plant can propagate with minimal care. Just be sure you’re keeping the soil wet and monitoring for pests.
How to grow Spirea bushes
Once your plants take root, it’s easy to take care of your shrub with basic TLC.
This section covers general care guidelines you may find helpful.
Note that YMMV: different cultivars will require different needs.
Spirea shrubs grow in lots of different environments, but ideally should be grown in zones 4-10.
While hardy to temperature dips or high heat, it will thrive when planted in moderate heat with bright, sunny weather.
If you’re outside of the suggested zone, you may have to accommodate it.
For example, if it’s too cold, consider using mulch or row covers to insular the roots. If it’s too hot, use artificial shade to block out sunlight.
You need to change it up depending on the local climate in your area. Then your plants will appreciate it and reward you with those gorgeous pink blooms.
Use high-quality, well-draining garden soil. The soil should be amended with sand to help improve drainage.
If it clumps or poorly drains, it can pool water buildup which can lead to rot or fungus. Use soil that’s made for shrubs if possible. Amend it to help get the pH to an acidic level. Bone meal will be excellent for new plants.
Spirea grows well in slightly acidic (pH 5-6) environments. If the soil is too basic (alkaline), the plant can suffer from it (chlorosis).
Thus, ensure the pH is acidic to encourage fuller blooms and bigger foliage. You can adjust the pH using soil amendments such as limestone.
If you’re starting with cuttings, the correct depth of planting will vary. If you’re planting into the garden, the cuttings will need to be firmly covered with soil on the root end.
Space adequately to ensure that they get the space need to grow. They grow wide roots that will space out.
Place each plant at least 12 feet apart, but this will vary depending on the cultivar.
If you have other shrubs or plants nearby, they may compete for resources.
Spirea will benefit if fed with high-quality plant food. Use a half dose of a balanced, reputable general-purpose fertilizer. Look for 10-10-10 NPK.
Use it as directed, but half the initial dosage to see how your plant reacts to it. If it’s OK, then put the full dosage.
Use a time-released liquid fertilizer in the spring during the peak growing season.
This way, your Spirea will have enough nutrition to grow those flowers during blooming time. Don’t overfeed your shrubs. No need to get fancy fertilizer. Basic ones work well.
Spirea can be tolerant to cold down to 5F and heat upwards of 80F. It really depends on the cultivar you’re growing.
Be sure to check the individual plant profile to see what kind of temperatures it tolerates. If you’re in zones 4-10, you should be able to grow it in your local weather.
This bush is drought tolerant, so it’s perfect for warmer regions that don’t get much rain or water.
Water deeply and thoroughly when the soil is near dry. Regular watering sessions will help the plant get strong until it grows firm root systems.
They need more water during their growing season, but less when they get older.
Spirea has no real preference for humidity. Moderate humidity levels of 50% are sufficient to keep it from going dry.
High humidity levels may cause fungus, which should be eliminated by pruning the leaves. Successful pruning removes foliage which can help alleviate pooling.
Spirea shrubs require full sun for ideal growth.
If you want those gorgeous pink or white flowers during the spring or summer give it the sun it wants to grow them!
Partial shade is OK, but you can expect smaller flowers. Spring flowering shrubs should be planted in partial shade. Summer flowering shrubs can be planted in full sun.
Spring specimens tend to prefer cooler temperatures with partial shade. On the other hand, summertime ones like hotter temperatures with full sunlight.
It won’t make or break your blooms, but it can benefit them when choosing where to plant. Full sun produces more flowers with brighter colors throughout the fall.
Spirea needs little maintenance other than basic pruning. Deadhead spent flowers after they bloom to help keep them clean.
Pruning brown, yellow, or dried leaves is helpful too. Deadheading flowers help encourage second blooms. It also helps keep bugs off your shrubs. Spirea benefits from yearly maintenance.
The soil level should be checked with a monitor to see if nutrients are lacking.
Amend it if so.
Regular pruning is good because it helps encourage more growth of the stems. If you prune on a schedule, you can maximize flowering.
Spring flowering Spirea should be pruned right after they flower. The canes can be cut back to keep the shrub compact.
Summer shrubs should be pruned in the winter after they get spent. Trim wood often to keep your plant in shape. Summertime bloomers will easily outgrow their size, so they should be pruned regularly.
You can cut back to ⅓ of the original shrub size for the winter when it goes into dormancy.
Shearing after flowering will help encourage more blooms and leaf growth.
Wintertime is nothing to worry about for Spirea. If grown in the right zone, you don’t need to do anything special for winterizing it.
But younger plants will need mulch or row covers. Mulch will help insulate the roots from the cold. 2-3 inches will do.
For extreme dips in temperature, use row covers or plant wraps.
This bush can be picky with its neighbors.
It uses a lot of nutrients from the soil which will quickly outcompete other plants. Spirea also can grow up to 8 feet wide, which means that you shouldn’t be planting it near other plants in the first place.
However, plants that require very little nutrients to thrive such as junipers, weigela, or viburnum are excellent companions.
Ornamental grasses, asters, or heucheras are also good. Ornamental grasses are perfect. These will grow well with Spirea plants.
Don’t plant with
You should avoid planting these shrubs with neighboring plants that compete for nutrients.
Ideally, they should be planted 10 feet apart so they have plenty of room to grow.
Other plants may just get in the way or they can both suffer from a lack of nutrients. Give them ample space from other plants, no matter the type.
If you have poor soil, then it’s even more imperative you give them the space they need.
Spirea is pest hardy (as well as animal hardy) so they don’t succumb to pests that easily.
But since they flower with those gorgeous roses, they can bring in spider mites or aphids.
Both of these can be controlled with a good horticultural oil or insecticidal soap. Neem oil or even just pruning them should be OK.
It really depends on how many of them you have. You may even see the dreaded Spirea aphids, which look like soft-bodied pear-shaped plant lice.
Spirea is a resilient little shrub and will resist the majority of plant diseases. But they are vulnerable to papaya mosaic virus, ringspot viruses, fire blight, powdery mildew, tar spots, leaf spot, or other fungal issues.
Use a fungicide to remove these problems paired with regular pruning of infected foliage. Ensure that you don’t overwater.
Prune dense foliage for proper evaporation.
When you overwater, it pools water which can lead to fungus. You may need to use a professional fungicide to help get rid of spores or tar spots on the leaves.
This shrub is way too big to be grown indoors. While cultivating smaller spireas is possible, it’s not feasible.
You need to move it outdoors when it gets too big.
The roots will eventually outgrow whatever container you’re putting them in and will need to be transplanted into your garden.
It’s also more work, so why not start outside in the first place?
Unless your zone is cold, there’s no need to make it difficult for yourself.
Growing in containers
Spirea shrubs can be container grown, but you need to ensure that the pot you use is wide enough for the roots to extend.
Use a basic planter that’s at least 8 inches wider than the width of the root ball. Mix with moist, well-drained soil combined with 20% pumice to help drainage.
Put some pebbles at the base of the planter to help prevent clumping of the pot.
When the roots hit the edge or come out of the drain holes, it’s time to replace it. Follow the same sizing guidelines when upgrading.
To help prevent temperature swings, use ceramic, terra cotta, stone, or other porous materials other than plastic.
Sure, plastic is cheaper, but it also causes wide temperature fluctuations for your plant roots.
Temperature changes like that can be harmful to Spirea.
Spirea can be used for many different things. It’s a versatile woody bush that’s common in the garden as a hedge.
It can be used for edging, pathing, or even just void fill when you want to cover up your garden. It makes a good plant cover with those dense green foliage.
Whatever the need in your garden, Spirea is up to the task!
That’s why it’s popular- because it’s so easy to care for and it can do so many things.
The more you know, right?
Commonly asked questions about Spirea plants
Here are some common questions readers often ask about Spirea spp.
You may find your question here if not answered prior.
Do I need to renew Spirea plants?
You may have read that you need to renew Spirea, which basically means cutting down 3 of the largest canes each year. This is said to encourage the oldest canes to regrow. It also helps keep your bush tidy.
Note that if you do a Spirea renewal, you should expect that it’ll produce fewer blooms. Do it in the early spring. See video above.
Can I grow Spirea in container?
Spirea bushes can be grown in a container, but it needs to be big enough to accommodate the root ball.
It should be at least 3 times the width and 2 times the depth of the ball size. You need to upgrade the container when it outgrows it.
If the roots are coming out of the drainage holes or touching the container, then it’s time to get a bigger pot.
Note that container-grown plants will need more watering, fertilizer, and good soil that needs to be replaced. Potted Spirea tends to produce fewer blooms with less vibrant colors, but that’s obvious.
How often do you water Spirea?
Water your Spirea bush twice a week with about 1 gallon of water. Pour directly at the base of the plant.
Spirea can tolerate going dry. Use your finger to test the top 2 inches of soil. If it’s dry, that’s OK. Just don’t let it get dry for too long. Younger plants will need to be watered more compared to older ones.
Use a moisture meter to test for water levels for larger plants. Don’t water the leaves. Water deeply and thoroughly. Overwatering is bad.
It can lead to root rot, which can kill your bush. This is why well-draining soil is imperative. Let the soil go completely dry between watering sessions. Water more when it’s dry. Less when it’s wet.
Does Spirea grow in shade?
Spirea bushes can tolerate partial shade but will produce the most flowers when grown in full sun.
You can often get more colors and brighter fall foliage when given ample sunlight.
How far down can you trim a Spirea bush?
Trim down the stems until they’re 5 inches tall.
For the winter, this will be sufficient as the plant goes dormant and doesn’t need those tall bare stems.
You can use pruning shears to cut the stems one by one or hedge clippers. Prune at least twice a year, preferably once after it flowers then again in the winter.
When should Spirea be planted?
If you bought Spirea from the garden center, plant it in the spring or fall for ideal growth.
The bushes should be planted somewhere with plenty of space to accommodate the growth. Dig a hole that’s at least twice the width of the root ball with the same depth. Water deeply the first time.
Do bees like Spirea?
Bees, birds, and other natural pollinators will come to your garden if you have Spirea bushes. The bright vibrant petals bring in these beneficial pollinators, which can help you fertilize your crops or other plants.
How do you fertilize Spirea?
Use generic high-quality plant food. Use half dosage at first then full dosage per instructions. It should be balanced with a 10-10-10 NPK rating.
Is Spirea toxic to dogs?
Spirea is not known to be poisonous or toxic to dogs. It’s not listed by the ASPCA or other reputable groups online.
The plant itself is actually resistant to dog urine, so dogs may be beneficial to Spirea. Weigela, viburnum, and Karl Foerster grass Spirea are all able to handle dog urine.
So if you have dogs peeing in the garden, your Spirea should be OK.
Enjoy those pink blossoms in your garden!
You’re not warmed with everything you need to know to grow and care for Spirea bushes!
As you can see, this hardy bush produces gorgeous flowers. It doesn’t ask for much on your end.
So plant it!
It works wonderfully as a hedge, void fill, within mixed flower beds, edging plants, rockeries, or just to add some nice color to your yard.
Do you have any questions? Post them in the comments and let me know!
I’ve always been interested in gardening, but I never took it seriously until I was forcefully gifted an orchid. This was what got me into the hobby and I’ve never looked back. I enjoy writing about it, but not nearly as much as getting into the dirt and sculpting the perfect decorative ornamental to enjoy for the times.