TREES & plants


Flowers of false-spirea.

False-spirea is a dense, colony-forming, suckering shrub best used for naturalizing, erosion control. Large, showy clusters of tiny white flowers appear in mid-summer. The large compound leaves open on arching stems, unfolding with a reddish tinge gradually changing to a deep green. May be difficult to find in nurseries.

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


Botanical name: 
Sorbaria sorbifolia
All Common Names: 
False-Spirea, False spirea, Ash-leaf spirea, Ural false spirea
Family (English): 
Family (Botanic): 
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Shrub
Native Locale: 
  • Non-native
Landscape Uses: 
  • Hedge, 
  • Massing, 
  • Screen, 
  • Windbreak
Size Range: 
  • Large shrub (more than 8 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 2, 
  • Zone 3, 
  • Zone 4, 
  • Zone 5 (Chicago), 
  • Zone 6, 
  • Zone 7
Soil Preference: 
  • Alkaline soil, 
  • Moist, well-drained soil
Season of Interest: 
  • Early summer, 
  • Mid summer, 
  • Late summer
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • White
Shape or Form: 
  • Multi-stemmed, 
  • Thicket-forming, 
  • Upright
More Information: 

Size & form

An erect, colony-forming, multi-stemmed shrub reaching 5 to 10 feet high and wide.

Tree & Plant Care

Best in full sun, tolerant of light shade in moist, well-drained, organic-rich soil
Becomes stunted in dry soil
Suckering shrub, spreads profusely forming large colonies
Flowers on new wood, prune in spring before new growth begins
Deer resistant

Disease, pests, and problems

None serious

Native geographic location and habitat

Siberia, Manchuria, China, Korea and Japan

Attracts birds, pollinators, or wildlife

Flowers attract butterflies and pollinators

Bark color and texture 

Young stems are pink to green and slightly pubescent. Older stems are gray-brown and smooth

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Alternate, pinnately compound up to 12 inches long, with 12 to 25 leaflets, each 4 inches long and 1 inch wide. Margins are double serrated and pointed.
Foliage similar to Mountain ash (Sorbus). One of first shrubs to leaf out in spring.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Showy clusters of tiny white flowers in dense, cone-shaped panicles, 4 to 10 inches long.
Flowers on terminal ends of new wood in June

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Dehiscent fruit capsule

Cultivars and their differences 

Sem False-Spirea (Sorbaria sorbifolia 'Sem'): A dense, rounded, compact shrub reaching 3 to 4 feet high and 4 to 6 feet wide, new leaves coppery-pink when emerging.


Sorbaria sorbifolia or False-Spirea