Virginia Sweetspire

I have Iteas in both sun and shade in my Midwest garden, and it is one of the few shrubs that will flower in shade.

A branch of the shrub, Virginia Sweetspire, with a white flower.

Photo: dermoidhome

Virginia Sweetspire has white flowers like bottle brushes with nectar that is sought after by butterflies and other insects.

If you garden in zones 5 through 9 and are looking for a small to medium shrub that has fall color, Itea virginica, commonly called Virginia Sweetspire, may be a good candidate. Virginia Sweetspire has an upright growth habit and flowers in early summer. The flowers are white and like bottle brushes with nectar that is sought after by butterflies and other insects.

In Shade or Shine

Virginia Sweetspire does well in sun or shade which is a handy asset when surrounding plantings either grow up or die down and change the exposure. However, the red fall foliage color is more dramatic in a sunny site. I have Virginia Sweetspire in both sun and shade in my Midwest garden and it is one of the few shrubs that will flower in shade.

I plant them near evergreens because they like a slightly acidic soil, however, they also adapt well in neutral or alkaline soil. This is a deciduous shrub that lends itself to being planted in a serpentine curve to divide two garden areas, for example. In a shady woodland setting they will develop colonies and naturalize.

Offshoots, potted up, make an appropriate house warming gift because, not only can they be planted nearly anywhere, but they thrive and look good as a specimen plant that doesn’t need much pruning. The cultivar ‘Henry’s Garnet’ turns a dark red in late October in my garden, “Little Henry’ is a more compact cultivar while ‘Shirley’s Compact’ is a true dwarf that is perfect in small areas.

Moya Andrews

, originally from Queensland, Australia, served as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculties at Indiana University until 2004. In the same year, Moya began hosting Focus on Flowers for WFIU. In addition, Moya does interviews for Profiles, is a member of the Bloomington Hospital Board, and authored Perennials Short and Tall from Indiana University Press.

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