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.

Botanical name:

Spiraea tomentosa (syn. Spiraea tomentosa var rosea)

All Common Names:

Hardhack, Canada-tea, Steeplebush

Family (English):


Family (Botanic):


Tree or Plant Type:

  • Shrub

Native Locale:

  • Chicago area,
  • Illinois,
  • North America

Landscape Uses:

  • Hedge,
  • Massing,
  • Screen,
  • Specimen

Size Range:

  • Small shrub (3-5 feet)

Light Exposure:

  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 4,
  • Zone 5 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6

Soil Preference:

  • Acid soil,
  • Sandy soil

Season of Interest:

  • Mid summer,
  • Late summer

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • Pink

Shape or Form:

  • Multi-stemmed,
  • Thicket-forming,
  • Upright

Growth Rate:

  • Fast

More Information:

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

C-Value: 9
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.

Location of Spiraea tomentosa (syn. Spiraea tomentosa var rosea) (Hardhack) at the Arboretum

We do not seem to have this in our living collection.