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TREES & plants

Birchleaf spirea

Birchleaved spirea in flower, cultivar Tor.

Birchleaf spirea is a great small, rounded  shrub, reaching 3 to 4 feet high. The early  summer white flowers, dark green, birch-like leaves turn a kaleidoscope of red, orange, and purple fall color adding seasonal interest. Use for butterfly gardens and in the front of the shrub border.  May be difficult to find in local nurseries.

This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.

Botanical name: 
Spiraea betulifolia
All Common Names: 
Birchleaved spirea, Birch-leaved spirea
Family (English): 
Rose
Family (Botanic): 
Rosaceae
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Shrub
Native Locale: 
  • Non-native
Landscape Uses: 
  • Foundation, 
  • Massing, 
  • Mixed border, 
  • Patio/sidewalk, 
  • Specimen
Size Range: 
  • Small shrub (3-5 feet), 
  • Low-growing shrub (under 3 feet)
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 3, 
  • Zone 4, 
  • Zone 5 (Chicago), 
  • Zone 6, 
  • Zone 7, 
  • Zone 8, 
  • Zone 9
Soil Preference: 
  • Moist, well-drained soil
Season of Interest: 
  • Late spring, 
  • Early summer, 
  • Late summer, 
  • Early fall
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • White
Shape or Form: 
  • Mounded, 
  • Multi-stemmed, 
  • Round
Growth Rate: 
  • Moderate
More Information: 

Size & form

A rounded to mounded small shrub reaching 3 to 4 feet high and wide.

Tree & Plant Care

Best in full sun to part shade. Tolerant of wide range of soils, but prefers moist, well drained soil.
Flowers on new wood, so prune in early spring if needed.
Removing wilted flowers will promote more blooms
Shallow-rooted and benefits with a layer of organic mulch to conserve moisture.

Disease, pests, and problems

Leaf spots, mildew, aphids, scale

Native geographic location and habitat

NE Asia, and  Japan
Found in open meadows, slopes and rocky areas

Attracts birds, pollinators, or wildlife

Birds and butterflies are attracted to flowers

Bark color and texture 

Slender, brown, slightly peeling bark

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Alternate, 2 inch long, egg shaped to rounded birch-like leaves with toothed margins
Fall color is a kaleidoscope of orange, red, and purple.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Clusters (cormbs) of white, flat-topped flowers in mid-summer

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Dry follicle, not ornamental

Cultivars and their differences 

Tor Birch-leaved Spirea (Spiraea betulifolia 'Tor'): A dense, compact rounded habit reaching 2 to 3 feet high. The dark green, birch-like leaves turn a  orange, red, purple fall color. 

First Edition®Pink Sparkler™ Birchleaf Spirea (Spiraea betifolia 'Courispi'): Rounded, 3 to 4 feet high and wide, pink flowers in spring and repeated in fall. Blue green leaves turn burgundy red.

Spiraea betulifolia or Birchleaf spirea