Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica) is a medium-sized deciduous shrub that may or may not lose all its leaves. In the spring, after the big bloom season has finished, sweetspire opens with lovely arching branches and cascading 4-plus inch spires of white blossoms. It gives a better show if used in a mass planting, as one alone may appear rather scrawny. This plant suckers, so a barrier may be needed to contain it. The leaves are broad and about four inches long. The fall leaf color of red to purple is reason enough to grow it; plus you have the added benefit of the long tassels of white flowers in the spring.

Sweetspire is more at home near water or in a low area with poor drainage; it also is useful for erosion control. Just let it grow naturally and prune where needed. It prefers a rich, acid soil and is pest resistant. This shrub grows in dappled shade and part shade.

To propagate, you may gather seeds in late summer or early fall by collecting the seed pods and allowing them to dry for a few days then lightly crushing in a bag. Store sealed in a container in the refrigerator. It also may be propagated from semi-hardwood cuttings taken in late summer or early fall or by softwood cuttings taken in summer. A Texas native, Virginia sweetspire is a great source for color in the garden.

Virginia Young, former Smith County Master Gardener
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

Posted in Shrubs