Content Detail

Early spirea or Thunberg spirea is one of the first spireas to flower in early spring. The 3 to 5 feet high shrub starts out with lovely white umbel-shaped flowers, followed by fine-textured, light green foliage that eventually changes to a bronzy-orange fall color. Great plant for accent or used in a shrub border.

  • Family (English) Rose
  • Family (botanic) Rosaceae
  • Tree or plant type Shrub
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale Non-native
  • Size range Small shrub (3-5 feet)
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8
  • Soil preference Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil
  • Season of interest early spring, mid spring, late summer, early fall
  • Flower color and fragrance White
  • Shape or form Multi-stemmed, Open, Vase-shaped
  • Growth rate Moderate

Size & form:

This loosely branched shrub is small and vase-shaped, reaching 3 to 5 feet high and slightly wider at maturity.

Native geographic location and habitat:

It is native to Japan and China.

Attracts birds, pollinators, or wildlife:

This shrub attracts butterflies and bees.

Bark color and texture:

The bark is finely textured. This shrub has slender stems arranged in a zigzag pattern.  The stems are light brown with a downy to glabrous texture.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture:

Thin leaves grow in an alternate pattern. The linear leaves grow up to 1 1/2 inches long and 1/4 inch wide and are pale green, with finely serrated margins. Leaves turn yellow-orange in the fall and hold on long into the season.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size:

Flowers are white umbel-shaped clusters and appear before the leaves in early spring.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

The fruit is a brown follicle persistent through winter and not showy.

Plant care:

This shrub grows best in full sun to light shade and prefers well-drained soil. It does not like wet sites and requires pruning to keep in shape. Plants can send out runners forming small colonies which need to be pruned to maintain size.

Pests, diseases and tolerances:

Common problems are leaf spots, mildew, suckers, and fire blight. Early spirea is resistant to deer.

Compact early spirea (Spiraea thunbergii ‘Compacta’):

This shrub forms a compact mound reaching 3 to 5 feet high and 3 feet wide. It has white spring flowers.

Fujino Pink early spirea (Spiraea thunbergii ‘Fujino Pink’):

This variety is similar to the species but the flowers are light pink.

Mt. Fuji early spirea (Spiraea thunbergii ‘Mt Fuji’):

This shrub is a variegated form reaching 4 feet high. It has narrow leaves with a white stripe and tends to twist and curl. However, it can revert back to green leaves.


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