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Spirea, a Great Low Maintenance Shrub

I take it for granted. My Spirea bumalda 'Anthony Waterer' has been blooming since May, and the lacy flowers provide a lovely splash of color beside my patio.

Spirea is an old-fashioned plant, beloved by generations of gardeners. There are over eighty species of spirea, commonly called meadowsweet, and there are hundreds of varieties. They are all tough members of the rose family. They will grow in a range of soil types and, once established, are very draught tolerant. They need full sun to bloom best but will tolerate partial shade. The yellow leafed varieties, such as goldmound spirea, will bloom with less sun. All spireas should be spaced so they can spread their branches freely, and they appreciate a balanced fertilizer once a year.

Older spireas can be rejuvenated by pruning out the older branches. Spring flowering varieties should be pruned right after flowering. Summer bloomers, like my Anthony Waterer, bloom on new wood and should be pruned in early spring before new growth starts. 

This photo shows Anthony Waterer, on the left, just as flower buds are forming in April. The flowering shrub on the right is a knockout rose, another low maintenance shrub.

Spirea will grow in zones 5-9. It grows rapidly to two to nine feet, depending on the variety. Anthony Waterer grows to about three feet tall by four feet wide. It is deciduous and has light green, toothed leaves that turn reddish gold in the fall. Spirea looks great with evergreens. Mine are planted in companion to blue juniper, azaleas and rosemary, as well as the knockout rose growing in that area. The following scenes show Anthony Waterer during fall and again in May.

My Anthony Waterers provide year round interest and have done a great job covering a large portion of the slope beside my patio. They also attract butterflies, which I love. Anyone seeking to plant a low maintenance garden should consider one of the many varieties of spirea.

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Reader Comments (13)

I love this shrub too. Your plantings look great in the fall photos. Lovely photos!

July 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCarol

Pretty cool or should I say pretty and cool. Your blooms look great, I'll have to add this to my wish list of plants for next year.

July 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJeff

I overlook my spirea also. It's a hard worker and I rarely cut it back - it doesn't wilt, need deadheading, mulch, compost, or fussy soil requirements. I don't even remember ever having watered it. Cripes, I should have a garden full of spirea!

July 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJim/ArtofGardening.org

I've always loved Spireas, but sadly have never grown them. Our first house I was in my 'I'm afraid of deciduous plants' phase, which was silly, as they provide the wonderful colors of fall. Our next house the summers were intolerably hot and dry, and I honestly didn't think they'd survive. Here though, it would be fun to try them. We have enough evergreens as anchor plants, what we lack is color and interest through the seasons. Spirea I would think should do quite well here. Certainly a plant to add back to the list for the cultivated garden area. Your Anthony Waterer is beautiful.

July 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCurbstone Valley Farm

Your spirea is beautiful. It seems to have a great form and so much interest throughout the year. It's so easy to overlook the workhorses, isn't it? I do it all the time. I see it grows in Zone 9, but we can't grow this one this far south in Florida, even though we're Zone 9.

July 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFloridagirl

Dear Deborah, What a wonderful sequence of images relating to a much loved, as you say, and very versatile shrub. If anything is tried and tested by gardeners all over the world, then it has to be S. 'Anthony Waterer'. I do like it for exactly the same reasons as you and, whilst I no longer grow it, I do have the somewhat smaller S. 'Snowmound'.

S. 'Gold Flame', I am afraid to say, I loathe, It is the combination of the pink flowers with the gold leaves which I find particularly unpleasant. But that is just me!

July 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEdith Hope

Beautiful pictures! I think that I have one Spirea (I remember the tag said it was a spirea). It flowers every year and doesn't need any maintenance. Except for pruning. I watered it only once - when I planted it.

August 1, 2010 | Unregistered Commentervrtlaricaana

I love spirea too. Here, the white ones seem to do so much better than the pink ones. Maybe it is the humidity -- I see Floridagirl doesn't grow them either. Beautiful pictures -- thank you for sharing!

August 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth Barrow

I love these plants in the garden - they are such workhorses - from the goldflame ones with their wonderful colours of foliage to as we call it "Josephs Coat of many Colours" . I just give mine a little trim in the spring - but from now on I am going to have to give them a trim in the autumn as one of them as seeded all over the place.

August 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRosie

These plants are unknown to me in our clime but they are really beautiful, i am sure butterflies really love them because the umbels are big. The 2nd to the last photo of autumn is my favorite, as we dont have it, and i long to see it somehow! thanks.

August 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea in this Lifetime

I thought the plant was a bit too pink and lacy for me, but when you see it in juxtaposition with the other greenery, it sets a nice tonal balance.

August 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterThe Idiot Gardener

Love your spirea as well as your landscape! So pretty!

August 4, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkimberly

Deb - your spirea look so healthy!

I was thisclose to picking up "Golden Flame" spirea last year to put beside a "Center Glow" Ninebark --- they are like opposites of each other in color. At work, our contract manager for landscape services told me that spirea in IL were suffering from some kind of blight or something? I opted to skip the purchase, but after seeing your pictures (and thinking of their fall color!) I think I need to reconsider. Thanks for the inspiration!

August 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterShyrlene

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