Spirea: Not Just Filler
The Spirea is a humble plant, it is often overlooked and under thought. Did you know that there are literally hundreds of native Spirea species? That is not counting all the selected cultivars that are bred and produced in nursery breeding programs. There is so much variety and potential in Spireas. And yet they are often just the little plant in the front row filling a hole in the flower bed.
The Spireas that we grow in Manitoba can be split into two groups: white flowering and pink flowering. There are a few more differences involved than just colour. One of the most prominent differences is that the white flowering Spireas are more cold tolerant than the pink flowering ones. Most Spireas are zone 3 hardiness, however there are a few of the white Spireas that are zone 2.
Another difference is the flower buds. All pink flowering Spireas will flower on the fresh growth of that year. That is why an early pruning as soon as you see buds is helpful because it’ll make the plants grow out more compact and with more flowers on more fresh growth. The white flowering Spireas on the other hand flower on the growth of last year. This is why it is more helpful to prune white flowering Spireas right after they have finished flowering, before the flower buds set in for the next year.
The pink flowering Spireas include many of the classics you have heard of and seen: Gold Mound, Gold Flame, Froebelii, Magic Carpet etc. Gold Flame has been one of our top sellers for years. Growing 3 feet tall and wide at maturity with red spring growth, yellow and red summer colour and an even redder fall colour add in the pink flowers to the mix and you get a plant with a large colour spectrum for the full season. Keep in mind that if 3 feet is too tall you can always get the Magic Carpet Spirea instead. Magic Carpet is very much the shorter counterpart of the Gold Flame Spirea. The features, flowers and colours are all very similar. The main difference between them is that the Magic Carpet will be half the height of one full grown Gold Flame.
Some of the more popular white Spireas include the Halward Silver, Birchleaf/Tor, Glow Girl and Bridal Wreath Spirea. Halward Silver and Birchleaf/Tor are both quite popular for their white flowers and orange/red fall colour. Glow Girl Spirea is a Tor Spirea with a twist. Bright yellow foliage sets it apart from other Spireas. One of the more unique Spireas in the white flowering family is the Bridal Wreath Spirea. At full size it can be taller than 5 feet with long arching branches covered in white flowers. It has a very graceful look and it’s very unique in our landscape.
Again, an important pointer for any Spirea, particularly freshly planted ones is that lots of snow cover in winter will help protect your branches and roots so that you don’t have winter damage and die back in the spring.
With getting more and more information accessible to people we hope to continue to bring greater success, understanding and appreciation for all plants, and in this case particularly Spirea – helping everyone realize that they are more than just fillers.