Hardhack or Steeplebush spirea is a colony-forming native shrub found in acidic, boggy areas. Prefers a cool climate in upper Midwest. All parts of plant have a hairy, rusty appearance. Best used in sunny, wet landscapes. Can be purchased through local native plant nurseries.
All Common Names:
Tree or Plant Type:
- Chicago area,
- North America
- Small shrub (3-5 feet)
- Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
- Zone 4,
- Zone 5 (Chicago),
- Zone 6
- Acid soil,
- Sandy soil
Season of Interest:
- Mid summer,
- Late summer
Flower Color & Fragrance:
Shape or Form:
Size & form
An upright, leafy shrub reaching 3 to 4 feet high with a suckering root system that forms large colonies.
Tree & Plant Care
Best in full sun in wet to moist conditions.
Soil pH adaptable but best in acidic sandy soils.
Prune to control size.
Disease, pests, and problems
Leaf spots, mildew, chlorotic symptoms in high pH soils
Disease, pest, and problem resistance
Native geographic location and habitat
Found in boggy, acidic soils, in wet prairies and along stream banks and lakes.
Northern Europe and Midwest U.S., including northern IL.
Attracts birds, pollinators, or wildlife
Birds, butterflies and bees
Bark color and texture
Slender gray twigs covered in whites hairs, older stems are reddish with peeling bark and white lenticels.
Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture
Alternate, narrow, lanceolate leaves up to 3 inches long and 1/2 inch wide. Upper surface is a medium green and slightly hairy, underside is densely hairy and rusty brown.
Flower arrangement, shape, and size
Dense, hairy, terminal clusters (panicles) of pink flowers up to 6 inches long. Each flower has 5 pink petals and pink stamens.
Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions
Upright follicle. Fruit ripens in fall and persist throughout winter.