Rose SpireaSpiraea douglasii
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Outdoor Growing zone
Full Sun, Partial Sun
The Rose Spirea is an American shrub from the west that has striking tall pyramids of purple-pink flowers in summer. It is vigorous and easy to grow, forming a broad mound of upright stems 4 to 6 feet tall. The leaves are dark green with white undersides, and the fuzzy flowers grow at the ends of the stems. Grow it in natural settings and wild gardens, to edge woodlands or grow beside streams and lakes.
Full sun or partial shade is ideal for the Rose Spirea. It grows most vigorously in moist to wet soils, but also grows in ordinary garden soils that aren’t too dry. It doesn’t like very alkaline soils, or stagnant wet soil – good drainage is needed. Pests and diseases don’t bother it, and deer leave it alone. Prune after flowering to encourage more compact and extra-bushy growth, with larger flowers.
The trend in gardening today is away from super-neat, trimmed gardens towards a more casual, ‘natural’ style. Combined with that is a move away from growing alien species towards growing plants that we could find naturally in North America, even if not exactly where we live. These trends open up the possibility of growing many attractive plants that wouldn’t have meant much in the past, because they didn’t have that neat, round form or big double flowers. A great plant that is perfect for these new looks, and that has been tucked away in our wetlands, is the Rose Spirea. It forms dense thickets of upright stems clothed in small leaves with a slight bluish tone, topped with foot-long pyramids of fluffy, bright-pink flowers. It looks great in bloom, and even the brown seed heads give an attractive look in fall and winter. We expect spirea to have white flowers, or be low, bushy plants with small, flat clusters of white or pink flowers – not these big, showy spikes like candy-floss. It’s a great choice for wetter areas, but grows happily in ordinary garden soil too. Native plants don’t have to be dull, and this one certainly isn’t, so get with the latest trends and plant the Rose Spirea.
The Rose Spirea is a rounded but upright shrub growing 4 to 7 feet tall, sending up long stems covered in small leaves. These are up to 4 inches long, oblong in shape, with serrated edges, mainly towards the tip, and a smooth, dark-green upper surface. The undersides of the leaves are light gray to white and slightly fuzzy. They turn bronzy yellow in fall. This is a vigorous shrub that forms a dense clump of stems up to 6 feet across. Especially in wet soils it can sucker, forming dense thickets, so don’t plant it in areas with limited space.
In June and July long spikes of tiny, fuzzy flowers develop at the ends of the new stems. These are up to 12 inches long, although shorter on drier soils, forming a narrow pyramid of glowing purple-pink. The color is bright and clear, and stands out well. They attract pollinators, including several types of butterflies. Tan colored seed heads develop from the flowers, which have an attractive wintery look.
This is a shrub for larger gardens, where it can be used to fill more natural areas, including edging water and in damp to wet places. It will also grow in ordinary soil, but always benefits from water. Use it along streams or beside lakes, or in open woodland areas. Plant it on slopes where it will reduce erosion.
The Rose Spirea is hardy in all cool to warm areas, from zone 5 into zone 8.
Grow the Rose Spirea in full sun, or with a little partial shade, such as dappled shade along the edge of woodlands. It grows in most soils that are not too alkaline, and thrives in moist to wet soils, as long as they are well-drained. That is, it will grow in wet ground, but not in swampy areas with stagnant, smelly soil.
Generally free of pests or diseases, the Rose Spirea is not usually bothered by deer. It is vigorous and easy to grow. It’s spread can be controlled by cutting around the plant with a sharp spade and removing suckers, or it can be allowed to colonize larger areas if wanted. Prune immediately after flowering to encourage more compact, shorter growth and abundant flowers the following year. Cut stems back by half to two-thirds, and remove any very old stems completely.
The rose spirea, Spirea douglasii, is also known as Douglas’ spirea, western spirea and hardhack. The first European to see it was the intrepid plant explorer David Douglas, a working-class Scotsman who worked (for a very low salary) for the Royal Horticultural Society, exploring northwestern North America in the early 19th century. In all he brought back 240 different plants, including the Douglas fir. He sent back seeds of the rose spirea in 1827. It grows naturally from northern California through Oregon and Washington state into British Columbia. It grows eastward to Idaho and Tennessee. By an ironic twist it has become naturalized across Europe, now growing wild from Ireland to Hungary and north into Sweden.
For something different and striking, this unique spirea will have your gardening friends asking you what it is. Grown in natural areas and modern ‘wild’ gardens, it’s a great plant, but rarely available. We found a supplier, but our stock is limited – order now because these plants won’t be with us for long.