Scentlandia® IteaItea virginica 'SMNIVDFC' (PP# 30,233)
View more from Other Shrubs & Hedges
30 day - ARRIVE AND THRIVE™ guaranteeLearn more
Probiotic Root Stimulant
Itea virginica 'SMNIVDFC' (PP# 30,233)
Outdoor Growing zone
Full Sun, Partial Sun
The Scentlandia® Itea is a garden selection of our native Virginia sweetspire, that is compact and bushy, no more than 3 feet tall and wide. It has rich dark-green leaves that turn vibrant shades of purples and reds in fall, and it’s smothered for weeks in early summer with long spikes of white blossoms that have an exceptionally powerful honey fragrance. This moisture and shade-tolerant bush is perfect for filling the foreground of beds with large shrubs; mixing with plants like azaleas and rhododendrons; planting by water, or edging paths.
The Scentlandia® Itea grows well in all light conditions, from full sun (in damp soil) to light full shade, or the dappled shade of woodlands. It thrives in moist to wet soils, as well as ordinary garden soils, including heavy clays. Avoid stagnant, swampy ground and very dry, sandy areas. It blooms better in colder zones than other Itea varieties, and it just needs an annual trim to keep it perfect. Pests and diseases are almost unknown, and deer (usually) leave it alone.
Finding flowering shrubs for shady parts of your garden has always been tough, with even shade-tolerant shrubs dramatically reducing their flower production when deprived of direct sunlight. That’s why the shrubs called Itea, or Virginia sweetspire, have become so popular. They are way more shade tolerant than most others, and bloom well even in full shade. They also bloom in early summer, after other shade-loving flowers like azaleas and rhododendrons are over. Since they enjoy similar conditions (but don’t need acid soil), they are obvious choices to keep the party going in the shady parts of your garden. Trouble is, a lot of them are a bit tall and floppy to look great, and that is where the Scentlandia® Itea steps in. A smaller, more bushy shrub, it is not only neater and easier to work with, it has extra-powerful scent – a great feature of these shrubs, and extra long flower spikes too. Oh, did we forget to mention the great fall color? It has that too, making this a wonderful all-round shrub to plant everywhere in your garden.
The Scentlandia® Itea is a compact deciduous shrub that grows between 2 and 3 feet tall, with a similar spread. It forms a densely-branched plant, and it’s much more bushy and dense than other types of Itea you may have grown. The leaves are 2 to 3 inches long, shaped like smooth ovals, and they are a very rich, dark green through the summer. The fall coloring is nothing short of spectacular, with rich shades of brilliant red mixed with deep purples – a real stand-out in any fall garden. The leaves hold well too in fall, especially in warmer areas, often lasting well into winter and keeping color in your garden for weeks and weeks.
Flowers begin to appear at the very end of spring and into the early weeks of summer. Long flower spikes develop at the ends of new shoots, and these are 2½ to 3 inches long, packed with a profusion of small, shiny-white flowers. The spike is slightly curving, and the star-shaped flowers open from the bottom up, lasting for several weeks and giving a long bloom season. The blooms are magnets to pollinating insects and butterflies, and magnets for you too because they are incredibly fragrant, with a lovely sweet fragrance, as if you have spread honey around your garden. This variety was especially selected for the quality and intensity of its perfume – you really will think you live in the Land of Scent. The flowers are followed by small, insignificant seed clusters, and don’t need deadheading for neatness.
This is a wonderful shrub for filling beds and bringing lots of interest in those early weeks of the summer, as well as fabulous fall color – two seasons of serious beauty. It is great for filling spaces beneath taller shrubs and beneath trees, and lovely planted along a stream. For group planting, spacing plants 2 feet apart will give a lovely continuous flow. This is an improved form of a native shrub, so plant it freely in natural areas and in woodlands, as well as in more ‘structured’ parts of your garden.
Henry’s Garnet Itea is hardy from zone 5 to zone 9, so almost everyone can grow it. Other forms of this plant don’t always bloom well in zones 5 and 6, but Scentlandia Itea has been selected to be much more reliable in those colder zones.
Not only was the Scentlandia Itea chosen for its powerful scent and compact growth, it also performs better in full shade than others. The lighter shade beneath deciduous trees is best – expect some reduced flowering and softer fall colors in deep full shade. It also grows very well in partial shade, and even in full sun, as long as the soil is moist. As for soil, it grows well in all moist soils, including clays and even wet ground, as long as the soil is not stagnant and swampy. With some watering in summer it will also grow in ordinary garden soils that aren’t too sandy, but not in dry, very poor soil.
Scentlandia Itea isn’t normally bothered by any important pests or diseases, and deer generally leave it alone, although nothing with deer can be said with 100% certainty. An annual trim after flowering, and perhaps in spring in colder zones to remove any dead twigs, is all the care needed for this bush, so it’s very low-maintenance. Once established it does spread a little from root suckers, helping build denser planting, but if it seems to be spreading too much, take a sharp spade and cut around the plants in fall, pulling up the suckers that have been cut away.
As botanists often do, they have changed the name of the Virginia Sweetspire to Cyrilla racemiflora, but nurseries are still calling it by the older name of Itea virginica, so we are continuing to do that too. This native shrub grows across a wide area of the southeast, as far west as the Mississippi, and it can be found growing beside streams and at the edges of swamps. Wild plants are often a bit tall and leggy, with pale green leaves and variable fall color. To give us better garden plants, Tim Woods, plant breeder for Spring Meadow Nursery of Grand Haven, Michigan, grew seedlings of this plant together, and collected a large batch of seeds. When he grew the seedlings he selected a batch of compact, denser plants, and then grew those together. In 2011 he collected seeds from those plants, growing more seedlings. In 2014, from among those new plants he selected one that was very compact, with great fall color, extra-large flower spikes, and stronger perfume. He named it ‘SMNIVDFC’ (can you figure out what it stands for?) and the new plant was given a patent in 2019. In 2018 Spring Meadow registered the trademark name Scentlandia® for their new plant.
It is great to see nurseries giving us improved versions of our native plants, that are more exciting, and more compact to fit into the look of our gardens, and into smaller spaces. The Scentlandia® Itea is a great addition to our garden shrubs, while still a native plant, so you can plant it everywhere without concern for it invading natural areas as an alien. But the demand is high for these new plants, so order now – they won’t stay available for long.