Content Detail

Japanese spirea is a favorite of many gardeners offering a wide range of sizes and cultivars. The dense, compact habit, large clusters of late spring and summer flowers in pink or white, and the excellent fall color provide many seasons of care-free enjoyment in the landscape.

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

Size & Form:

Japanese spirea comes in variable sizes, depending upon the cultivar. It is typically 2 to 3 feet high and 3 to 5 feet wide, but some cultivars can go up to 5 to 6 feet high and wide. It falls into two categories; spring-blooming and summer-blooming with white or carmine-pink flowers.

Native geographic location and habitat:

This shrub is native to Japan, Korea, and China.

Attracts birds, pollinators, or wildlife:

Butterflies are attracted to the summer flowers.

Bark color and texture:

They have multiple, brown, thin, and twiggy stems.

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

The spirea leaf is alternate, simple, 1 to 3 inches long and 1 to 2 inches wide with serrated or toothed margins. Depending upon the  cultivar, new leaves emerge reddish-orange or with a pink tinge, change to medium green for summer, and back to an orange-red fall color.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size:

Flowers on new wood. Most are summer blooming, but a few cultivars bloom in spring. Flowers  are 3 to 4 inch, flat clusters (corymbs) of white to deep pink from June through August.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

Dry, brown follicles, persist through winter but are not ornamentally significant.

Plant care:

Spirea are compact, mounded shrubs that require well-drained soil and are intolerant of wet sites. They do best in full sun, but many will grow in light shade. All spirea benefit from a periodic pruning to keep plants in shape and initiate new growth. They can even be cut to the ground and will grow back from the roots. Spirea flowers on new wood, so prune in early spring. Pruning after flowering often will promote a second sporadic flush of flowers. 

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances:

Wet soils promote root rots, powdery mildew, and leaf spots. It is tolerant of aerial salt spray.

Note: This plant is often confused with Spiraea x bumalda, so refer to the cultivar listings for this species if you are unable to locate it in a nursery.

Alpine Japanese spirea (Spiraea japonica ‘Alpina’):

A low-growing, spreading ground cover shrub, about 2 feet high and 4 to 6 feet wide. It produces light pink blooms which contrast well with the small, blue-green, finely-textured leaves.

Anthony Waterer Japanese spirea (Spiraea japonica ‘Anthony Waterer’ {syn. Spiraea x bumalda ‘Anthony Waterer’}):

A 4 feet high cultivar which is an upright mound of dense stems that grows 5 feet wide or more. The summer blooms are 4 inches wide, flat-topped clusters and a deep red-pink. The blue-green leaves turn reddish in fall.

Curled-leaved Japanese spirea (Spiraea japonica ‘Crispa’):  

A  3 to 4 feet tall and wide form of ‘Anthony Waterer’ with unique, finely textured leaves that are twisted and dissected. Flowers are a lighter pink.

Double Play™ Artisan® Japanese spirea (Spiraea japonica ‘Galen’):

A 2 1/2 feet tall cultivar with a compact habit. Purple-red spring foliage turns a blue-green in summer and the flowers are a rich pink.

Double Play™ Gold Japanese spirea (Spiraea japonica ‘Yan’):

Vibrant gold foliage, pink flowers, and a low-mounded, compact habit that reaches 16 to 24 inches in height.

Golden Princess® Japanese spirea (Spiraea japonica ‘Lisp’):  

A  2 feet high mound with bright yellow leaves that start out bronzy-orange. The 3 inch wide bright pink flowers appear in early summer.

Golden Thumbellina™ Japanese spirea (Spiraea japonica ‘KLMthirteen’):

A mounded shrub, 2 feet high and 2 to 3 feet wide with pink flowers accented against yellow foliage.

Goldflame Japanese spirea (Spiraea japonica ‘Goldflame’):

A yellow-leaved cultivar reaching 2 to 3 feet high and wide. New leaves emerge bright orange-red in spring and gradually fade to yellow. Flowers are a light pink.

Goldmound Japanese spirea (Spiraea japonica ‘Goldmound’): 

A low, 2 to 3 feet high,  mounded, golden-yellow form that does not fade in the summer sun, drought, or heat. The early summer lavender-pink flowers add nice contrast.

Little Princess Japanese spirea (Spiraea japonica ‘Little Princess’):

A fine textured, green-leaved form with bright pink flowers on a  2 to 3 feet high and wide mound. Flowers are pink fading to white.

Magic Carpet Japanese spirea (Spiraea japonica ‘Magic Carpet’): 

A vibrantly colored, low-mounded variety which is 18 to 24 inches high and wide and has bronzy-yellow leaves. New leaves emerge a vibrant orange-red and retain red-tipped branches all season. Flowers are pink. Fall color is a russet-red that persists late into season.

Neon Flash Japanese Spirea (Spiraea japonica ‘Neon Flash’):

A 3 feet high, mounded shrub with rich red flower clusters. The reddish new growth turns dark green in summer.


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