Sweetspire is a southeastern native that grows in moist, wet areas, as well as upland sites. Grown for the long, drooping clusters of white, fragrant flowers in spring and the kaleidoscope of orange, red, yellow fall color.
This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.
All common names:
Tree or Plant Type:
- North America
- Mixed border,
- Medium shrub (5-8 feet),
- Small shrub (3-5 feet)
- Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
- Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily),
- Full shade (4 hrs or less of light daily)
- Zone 5 (Chicago),
- Zone 6,
- Zone 7,
- Zone 8,
- Zone 9
- Moist, well-drained soil,
- Wet soil
- Dry sites,
- Wet sites,
- Occasional flooding,
- Clay soil
Seasons of Interest:
- early summer,
- early fall,
- mid fall,
- late fall
Flower Color & Fragrance:
Shape or Form:
Size and Form
3 to 5 feet high and wide; rounded form; may form thickets.
Tree & Plant Care
Found growing in wet woodlands and along stream banks.
Best in moist, organic-rich, acidic soil. Can grow in higher pH soils but chlorsis may be a problem.
Grows in full sun to part shade.
Water in dry periods.
Maintain good soil moisture for best growth. Benefits with a layer of organic mulch to moderate soil temperature and conserve moisture.
Prune after flowering.
Disease, pests and problems
Leaf spot, mildew, and chlorsis symptoms in high pH soil.
Disease, pest, and problem resistance
Plant tolerant of flooded areas for extended periods of time.
Drought tolerant once established.
Native geographic location and habitat
Native to the southeastern United States.
Found in swamps, wet woodlands, and along streambanks.
Bark color and texture
Young stems are slender, greenish to reddish with small, tan lenticels.
Mature stems take on a red-brown color and are scaly in appearance.
Twig pith is chambered and white.
Roots produce suckers.
Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture
Simple alternate leaves; 2 to 4 inches long, elliptic with a finely toothed margin.
Leaf tip is pointed, green and glossy in summer; fall color is a mix of yellow, orange, red and purple.
Flower arrangement, shape, and size
Terminal, drooping, white flowers in a 2 to 6 inch long spike; fragrant. Flowers are long-lived.
Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions
Small, dried capsules that persist into winter.
Henry's Garnet Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica 'Henry's Garnet'): A rounded, 2 to 3 feet high and 4 to 6 feet wide shrub with white flowers and reddish-purple fall color.
Little Henry™ Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica 'Sprich'): Compact, 3 to 4 feet high and 3 to 4 feet wide; 3 to 4 inch flower spikes, and burgundy-red fall color.
Scarlet Beauty™ Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica 'Morton'): Upright-rounded, 3 to 4 feet high and wide; adundant flowers, orange-red fall color; Chicagoland Grows™ introduction.