Spirea: True or False?
There are some trees and shrubs that are simply underrated and I think one that is the most overlooked is the False Spirea.
False Spirea is not to be confused with the real Spirea. While true Spireas tend to be very compact with small brightly coloured leaves, the False Spirea has rather large, fern-like foliage that is deep forest green. You will often see a hint of reddish-purple foliage on the fresh growth giving a preview of the fall colour to come.
The flowers are different as well. Spireas have a small cluster of blooms in mid spring-early summer, and the flowers will be either in white or pink. False Spirea has a mid-summer bloom that is a tall, cone shaped plume of white.
The False Spirea is native to somewhere.
There are several different cultivars of False Spirea today. Most of them when grown to their mature size will be 6’ tall and wide. They are vigorous growers often exceeding a foot of growth in a year. This being said, pruning once per year is helpful in making sure the plant does not become too lanky.
The Sem False Spirea is a dwarf version growing only 4’ tall at maturity. Its foliage is brighter than its taller relatives. The leaves are lime green to yellow with a touch of orange on the fresh growth. It is a great option for locations where the full sized version is simply too big.
False Spirea is a plant that is tolerant of full sun, drought, wind and poor soil. It has the ability to thrive in most any setting. It is Zone 2 cold tolerant and ready to face our prairie winters.
But what I love most about False Spirea is that while being so sun and heat tolerant it is also shade and moisture tolerant. That is right, a false Spirea can thrive in both full sun and full shade. Keep in mind that the more sunlight a False Spirea has the better the colours in fall will be.
Being such a versatile plant comes with one drawback. False Spirea have a habit of spreading from the roots quite vigorously. Therefore if you plant one False Spirea you may very well end up with a dozen of them, creating a thicket of sorts. This can be quite advantageous if you need something fast growing to fill up an area, but could also be potentially problematic if it begins running rampant through your flowerbeds.
There are a few methods used to keep a False Spirea in check. Firstly you can pull out new shoots that are sprouting up in the wrong spot. Cutting off sucker shoots will leave the stem below the ground intact, and it will most likely return. Pulling them tears the shoot off at its base and will prevent them from coming back. Tilling is another method you can use to keep the roots trimmed and in place.
Edging can be used as a barrier to keep the spreading roots contained. The spreading roots are always in the top 3” of soil so a 4” deep barrier will keep them in check. I have sometimes recommended using a large plastic tub with bottom cut out and bury it in the ground around the False Spirea.
After considering all the amazing traits of the False Spirea I brought one home just the other day. Now it is back to that age old question: where will I find room in my full yard to plant it?