Sem False Spirea

Sorbaria sorbifolia ‘Sem’ (PP# 16,336)

Sem False Spirea

Sorbaria sorbifolia ‘Sem’ (PP# 16,336)

This product is currently out of stock and unavailable.


How are the heights measured?

All tree, and nothin' but the tree! We measure from the top of the soil to the top of the tree; the height of the container or the root system is never included in our measurements.

What is a gallon container?

Nursery containers come in a variety of different sizes, and old-school nursery slang has stuck. While the industry-standard terminology is to call the sizes "Gallon Containers", that doesn't exactly translate to the traditional liquid "gallon" size we think of. You'll find we carry young 1-gallons, up to more mature 7-gallons ranging anywhere from 6 inches to 6ft.

How does the delivery process work?

All of our orders ship via FedEx Ground! Once your order is placed online, our magic elves get right to work picking, staging, boxing and shipping your trees. Orders typically ship out within 2 business days. You will receive email notifications along the way on the progress of your order, as well as tracking information to track your plants all the way to their new home!

Why are some states excluded from shipping?

The short & sweet answer is: "United States Department of Agriculture Restrictions." Every state has their own unique USDA restrictions on which plants they allow to come into their state. While we wish we could serve everyone, it's for the safety of native species and helps prevent the spread of invasive disease & pests. We've gotta protect good ole' Mother Nature, after all.

About Me


The Sem False Spirea is a replacement for the more aggressive wild version of this plant. It grows no more than 5 or 6 feet tall, and isn’t invasive. It forms a compact mass of ferny leaves that are pink and red-bronze in spring, turning chartreuse green and then light green for the summer. In late spring clusters of fluffy white flowers top the stems. Its delightful ferny, bamboo-like foliage looks great in Zen gardens and natural woodlands too, and it’s perfect for slopes, the back of beds and woodland gardens.

  • Attractive ferny foliage on a smaller bushy plant
  • Bright red-bronze spring foliage
  • Chartreuse to light-green summer leaves
  • Clusters of attractive white, fluffy flowers
  • Compact, non-spreading habit

The Sem False Spirea is incredibly cold-hardy, growing even in zone 2, and a great choice in all colder zones. It grows easily and quickly in almost any soil that isn’t very dry or very wet. It thrives all the way from full sun to dappled shade beneath trees, and it takes care of itself. Some pruning in early spring will keep it extra tidy, and some water in dry periods, although established plants are drought resistant.

Plant Hardiness Zones 2-8
Mature Width 4-6
Mature Height 4-6
Zones 2-8

Especially in cooler zones the false spirea is well known for bringing an attractive and dense covering of ferny foliage to light shade beneath trees, in woodlands or at the back of beds. It is also known for its aggressive spreading habits, and for often growing too tall for comfort. If we could design a ‘better’ false spirea, it would be one that was more compact, much less invasive, and perhaps had more colorful spring foliage and lighter-green summer leaves to stand out better. We didn’t design it, but the Sem False Spirea fits that dream perfectly, with exactly those features. Growing to hardly more than 5 feet tall, and staying dense and compact, it is just as tough and easy to grow as the original, but it sparkles with pink and red new leaves, turning chartreuse green for much of the summer, before turning golden yellow in fall. Showy clusters of fluffy white flowers brighten late spring and early summer. If you have ended up hating false spirea for its bully habits, you are going to love this well-mannered and more colorful replacement. If you don’t know it, this is a fabulous plant with a bamboo-like look that fits into all types of gardens.

Growing the Sem False Spirea

Size and Appearance

The Sem False Spirea is a deciduous shrub that forms a dense clump of upright stems rising 4 to 6 feet tall and growing about the same width. The leaves are 6 to 7 inches long, but divided into leaflets along a central stem. Each leaflet is slender and pointed, with a finely-toothed edge. New leaves in spring are bright pink to red-bronze, turning chartreuse green with bronzy tips, and then light green for the summer. In fall the leaves turn uniform pale yellow before dropping. In late spring or early summer clusters of fluffy white flowers develop at the ends of the stems. These are in pyramidal bunches about 8 inches long, and make a very attractive display, drawing bees and butterflies to them. These are replaced by inconspicuous seed clusters.

Using the Sem False Spirea in Your Garden

Attractive and easy to grow shrubs are always needed for the backs of beds and for all those out of the way corners of your garden. The easy-to-grow Sem False Spirea is an easy solution for those areas. It isn’t invasive like its parent, and won’t spread where it isn’t wanted, but it’s sturdy enough to give good coverage. It is good on banks and slopes, where the stems and roots reduce soil erosion. Space plants 3 feet each way for solid cover in mass plantings. It has a very striking look, and its ferny leaves look great in the corners of Zen gardens and Asian-style plantings, with a bamboo-like appearance and texture. Its light coloring look fabulous with dark-leaf shrubs and especially with red-leaf Japanese maple trees.


The incredible winter hardiness of this plant, reliable even in zone 2, makes it a great choice in colder zones, where there are fewer plant choices, but its special leaf coloring makes it valuable everywhere, all the way into zone 8.

Sun Exposure and Soil Conditions

Tolerant of a wide range of light levels, the Sem False Spirea grows in full sun, partial shade and the dappled shade beneath deciduous trees, although not so well in deeper shade. It grows in most soils, needing nothing special, but not so well in very dry soils or muddy ground. Once established it is fine during normal summer dry periods. Young plants should be watered regularly.

Maintenance and Pruning

The Sem False Spirea is normally free of pests or diseases, and easy to grow. In spring, when the buds are swelling, remove any dead stems and parts of stems. At the same time, when plants are older, you can remove some of the tallest branches, to keep it more compact. Any suckering stems that grow around it can be removed with a sharp spade, but this plant is not an aggressive spreader.

History and Origin of the Sem False Spirea

The false spirea, Sorbaria sorbifolia, grows all through eastern Russia, to the Pacific, and in northern China and Korea. It was introduced into Europe early, growing in English gardens by 1760. It has been a popular garden shrub in Europe and North America for a very long time, but few varieties existed. In 1998 Joannis Nouws, of the Witteman & Company nursery in Hillegom, the Netherlands, crossed together two plants of false spirea he had selected. Two years later he chose a unique seedling from the plants he raised, which had unique red spring growth, lighter-green foliage and more compact growth. It was named ‘Sem’ and given European Plant Breeders Rights in 2001 and an American patent in 2009.

Buying the Sem False Spirea at the Tree Center

This new false spirea is destined to replace old, wild plants both here and in Europe. Say ‘goodbye’ to the old bully and ‘hello’ to its tamed, more colorful replacement, and give your garden a great filler you will love. Order now because new varieties of this quality sell out fast – don’t miss out.

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Sem False Spirea

Sorbaria sorbifolia ‘Sem’ (PP# 16,336)