Early spirea or Thunberg spirea is one of the first spireas to flower in early spring. The 3- to 5-feet-high shrub starts out with lovely white umbel-shaped flowers, followed by fine-textured, light green foliage that eventually changes to a bronzy-orange fall color. Great plant for accent or used in a shrub border.
All Common Names:
Tree or Plant Type:
- Mixed border,
- Small shrub (3-5 feet)
- Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
- Zone 4,
- Zone 5 (Chicago),
- Zone 6,
- Zone 7,
- Zone 8
- Moist, well-drained soil
- Alkaline soil
Season of Interest:
- Early spring,
- Mid spring,
- Late summer,
- Early fall
Flower Color & Fragrance:
Shape or Form:
Size & form
A small vase-shaped, loosely branched shrub reaching 3 to 5 feet high and slightly wider at maturity
Tree & Plant Care
Best in full sun to light shade, prefers well-drained soil
Does not like wet sites.
Requires pruning to keep in shape
Plants can send out runners forming small colonies, prune to maintain size
Disease, pests, and problems
Leaf spots, mildew, suckers and fire blight
Disease, pest, and problem resistance
Native geographic location and habitat
Japan and China
Attracts birds, pollinators, or wildlife
Butterflies and bees
Bark color and texture
Finely textured, slender stems arranged in a zigzag pattern.
Stems are light brown with a downy to glabrous texture
Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture
Alternate, thin, linear leaves up to 1 1/2 inches long and 1/4 inch wide
Pale green, with finely serrated margins. Yellow-orange fall color holds leaves long into fall.
Flower arrangement, shape, and size
White umbel-shaped flower clusters appear before the leaves in early spring.
Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions
Brown follicle persistent through winter, not showy.
Cultivars and their differences
Compact Early Spirea (Spiraea thunbergii 'Compacta'): a compact, mound reaching 3 to 5 feet high and 3 feet wide, white spring flowers
Fujino Pink Early Spirea (Spiraea thunbergii 'Fujino Pink'): similar to species but flowers are light pink
Mt. Fuji early spirea (Spiraea thunbergii 'Mt Fuji'): a variegated form reaching 4 feet high. Narrow leaves have a white stripe and tend to twist and curl. Can revert back to green.