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Japanese spirea

Specimen plant of Japanese spirea, cultivar 'Goldflame'.

Japanese spirea is a favorite of many gardeners offering a wide range of sizes and cultivars. The dense, compact habit, large clusters of late spring and summer flowers in pink or white, and the excellent fall color provide many seasons of care-free enjoyment in the landscape.

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


Botanical name:

Spiraea japonica (syn. Spiraea x bumalda)

All common names:

Japanese spirea

Family (English):


Family (Botanic):


Tree or Plant Type:

  • Shrub

Native Locale:

  • Non-native

Landscape Uses:

  • Container,
  • Foundation,
  • Hedge,
  • Massing,
  • Mixed border,
  • Patio/sidewalk,
  • Specimen

Size Range:

  • Medium shrub (5-8 feet),
  • Small shrub (3-5 feet),
  • Low-growing shrub (under 3 feet)

Light Exposure:

  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 4,
  • Zone 5 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7

Soil Preference:

  • Moist, well-drained soil


  • Occasional drought,
  • Alkaline soil,
  • Clay soil

Seasons of Interest:

  • mid spring,
  • late spring,
  • early summer,
  • midsummer,
  • late summer,
  • early fall

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • Pink,
  • White

Shape or Form:

  • Mounded,
  • Multi-stemmed,
  • Round

Growth Rate:

  • Fast

More Information:

Size & Form

Spirea comes in variable sizes , depending upon cultivar
Typically 2 to 3 feet high and 3 to 5 feet wide, but some cultivars can go up to 5 to 6 feet high and wide.
Falls into two categories, spring-blooming and summer-blooming with white or carmine-pink flowers 

Tree & Plant Care

Compact, mounded shrubs
Requires well drained soil, intolerant of wet sites.
Best in full sun, but many will grow in light shade.

All spirea benefit with a periodic pruning to to keep plants in shape and initiate new growth.
Can be cut to the ground and will grow back from the roots.

Flowers on new wood, prune in early spring; pruning after flowering often will promote a second sporadic flush of flowers.
Tolerant of aerial salt spray

Disease, pests, and problems

Wet soils promote root rots, powdery mildew, leaf spots

Native geographic location and habitat

 Japan, Korea, China

Attracts birds, pollinators, or wildlife

Butterflies are attracted to the summer flowers

Bark color and texture 

Multiple, brown, thin and twiggy stems

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Alternate, simple leaf,  1 to 3 inches long and 1 to 2 inches wide, serrated or toothed leaf margins.
Depending upon cultivar, new leaves emerge reddish-orange or with a pink tinge, changing to medium green for summer and back to a orange-red fall color.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Flowers on new wood. Most are summer blooming, but a few cultivars bloom in spring.
Flowers  are 3 to 4 inch, flat clusters (corymbs) of white to deep pink in June through August.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

 A dry, brown follicles, persistent through winter, not ornamentally significant.

Cultivars and their differences 

Note: This plant is often confused with Spiraea x bumalda, so refer to the cultivar listings for this species if you are unable to locate in a nursery.

Alpine Japanese spirea (Spiraea japonica 'Alpina'):  A low-growing,  spreading ground cover shrub, about  2 feet high and  4 to 6 feet wide. It produces light pink blooms and contrasts well with the small, blue-green, finely-textured leaves.

Anthony Waterer Japanese spirea (Spiraea japonica 'Anthony Waterer') (syn. Spiraea x bumalda 'Anthony Waterer'):  A  4 feet high, upright, mound of dense stems that grows 5 feet wide or more. The summer blooms are 4 inches wide, flat-topped clusters and a deep red-pink. The blue-green leaves turn reddish in fall.

Curled-leaved Japanese spirea (Spiraea japonica 'Crispa'):  A  3 to 4 feet tall and wide form of 'Anthony Waterer' with unique finely-textured leaves that are twisted and dissected. Flowers are a lighter pink.

Double Play™ Artisan® Japanese spirea (Spiraea japonica 'Galen'): A 2 1/2 feet tall compact habit. Purple-red spring foliage turns a blue-green in summer, flowers are a rich pink.

Double Play™ Gold Japanese spirea (Spiraea japonica 'Yan'): Vibrant gold foliage, pink flowers, low-mounded, compact habit reaching 16 to 24 inches high.

Golden Princess® Japanese spirea (Spiraea japonica 'Lisp'):  A  2 feet high mound with bright yellow leaves that start out bronzy-orange. The 3 inch wide bright pink flowers appear in early summer.

Golden Thumbellina™ Japanese spirea (Spiraea japonica 'KLMthirteen'): Mounded 2 feet high and 2 to 3 feet wide; pink flowers accented against yellow foliage

Goldflame Japanese spirea (Spiraea japonica 'Goldflame'): A yellow-leaved cultivar reaching 2 to 3 feet high and wide. New leaves emerge bright orange-red in spring and gradually fade to yellow. Flowers are a light pink.

Goldmound Japanese spirea (Spiraea japonica 'Goldmound'):  A low, 2 to 3 feet high,  mounded, golden yellow form that does not fade in the summer sun, drought and heat. The early summer lavender-pink flowers add nice contrast.

Little Princess Japanese spirea (Spiraea japonica 'Little Princess'): A fine textured, green-leaved form with bright pink flowers on a  2 to 3 feet high and wide mound. Flowers are pink fading to white.

Magic Carpet Japanese spirea (Spiraea japonica 'Magic Carpet'):  A vibrantly colored, low mounded, 18 to 24 inches high and wide with bronzy-yellow leaves.  New leaves emerge a vibrant orange-red and retains red-tipped branches all season. Flowers are pink. Fall color is a russet red that persists late into season.

Neon Flash Japanese Spirea (Spiraea japonica 'Neon Flash'): A 3 feet high, mounded shrub with rich red flower clusters, reddish new growth turns dark green.

Location of Spiraea japonica (syn. Spiraea x bumalda) (Japanese spirea) at the Arboretum

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