Itea virginica Virginia sweetspire – Native Alternative to Burning Bush

Itea virginica Virginia sweetspire is a lovely shrub for adding a different texture to a landscape. Understated and low maintenance, Virginia sweetspire is one of those natives that you plant and then leave alone to grow naturally. It is best suited for informal borders or hedges where its naturally rounded, graceful form can be left to develop on it’s own. Typically Itea virginica Virginia sweetspire grows to about 6′ however smaller forms are available.

itea-flowers

Itea virginica flowers

In early summer Itea virginica produces fragrant, creamy white flowers. The blooms are cylindrical shaped, drooping racemes which can cover the shrub over a long blooming period. Flowers are highly attractive to pollinators in a wildlife garden and I’ve always enjoyed how alive it is. It is one of those plants that is just buzzing with life while in bloom. I will say that while it attracts different bees, I have not personally noticed it to be a favorite among butterflies. Later when the seeds form, these will be eaten by birds.

Swallowtail resting on summer foliage

I am particularly fond of the summer foliage. The deep green, oval leaves have a wonderful color and a gentle look. The summer form creates a ‘soft’, soothing spot in the garden. Branches droop low and there is frequently ground foraging birds rooting about the base of mine while the Itea virginica providing cover.

An important issue to note about Itea virginica is that in spring, it will not be the first plant in your garden to leaf out. It tends to wake up a bit more slowly than other shrubs but once it does it seems to fill in overnight.

Itea virginica fall color

Itea virginica just beginning to change into fall colors

Autumn is when most people learn to love this plant. The fall color is simply beautiful with red, maroon and bronze leaves. It makes a great native plant alternative to invasive winged euonymous  or burning bush. The leaves tend to stay on the shrub for some time as well which makes up for the late spring emergence.

Itea virginica Virginia sweetspire isn’t very picky about placement but can not take full sun. In southern climates it is best suited for a filtered sun woodland garden or offered afternoon shade. The soil should be moist as it will grow leggy without adequate water.  Virginia sweetspire has a landscape problem spot advantage in that it does not mind having wet feet. It is terrific when mass planted along pond edges or creek beds but be warned, in a very wet or boggy situation it will sucker and colonize. There are times when this is desirable, but not always!

Instead of planting burning bush, give Itea virginica Virginia sweetspire a try. You will be providing wildlife value to your area along with helping to curb the spread of invasive plants. Itea virginica will reward you with lovely flowers, gorgeous fall color and by attracting pollinators, bring life into your yard.

 

 

 

© 2012, Karyl Seppala. All rights reserved. This article is the property of BeautifulWildlifeGarden.com We have received many requests to reprint our work. Our policy is that you are free to use a short excerpt which must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Please use the contact form above if you have any questions.

Related Posts with Thumbnails

Join the Wren Song Community

Wren Winter Singing crop

Free Exclusive Content and Member's Forum

Sign up for a free membership in the Wren Song Community and you'll have access to a lot more valuable information published exclusively for our members.

Meet other passionate wildlife gardeners from around the country. Share your successes. Learn from your failures. Discover the best resources to help you create welcoming habitat for wildlife in your gardens with native plants so that you will attract more birds, butterflies, native pollinators, and other wildlife to your garden.

Learn more about the Wren Song Community

Comments

  1. says

    I’m glad more people are advocating use of this plant! Interesting though, in zone 5 of central MA, I have to grow it in the fullest sun available, not part-shade. I have a client who grows ‘Little Henry’ right next to her swimming pool patio to pick up the heat from the pavement. In too much shade it grows a bit sparsely. Great June nectar source for bees!
    Ellen Sousa recently posted..Vegetable Gardening the Natural Way

  2. Jane Flanigan says

    I’d love to add this shrub to my landscape. But sad to say it’s not a good fit since it’s zone 5-9. Got to be tough to survive up here in the northwoods of Wisconsin!

Trackbacks

  1. […] Itea virginica Virginia sweetspire is a lovely shrub for adding a different texture to a landscape. Understated and low maintenance, Virginia sweetspire is one of those natives that you plant and then leave alone to grow naturally. It is best suited for informal borders or hedges where its naturally rounded, graceful form can be left to develop on it’s own. Typically Itea virginica Virginia sweetspire grows to about 6′ however smaller forms are available.  […]

  2. […] Something that I wish more nurseries would help more of us appreciate. For instance there is a non-native, invasive plant called, Burning Bush which is widely sold, although some eastern U. S. states are banning the importation of the plant. […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Current ye@r *

CommentLuv badge