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What is Spirea?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 21 September 2014
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Spirea is a genus of flowering shrubs with around 100 individual species, many of which are cultivated by gardeners around the world. Garden stores often have spirea in stock, and are capable of ordering specialty cultivars for their patrons. There are a number of uses for spirea in the garden, including as a border plant, hedge, or background planting, and many gardeners are very fond of spirea for its natural beauty and versatility.

You may also hear plants in the spirea genus referred to as meadowsweet. These plants have small oval leaves which may be toothed to lobed, and they produce profusions of white or pink flowers in the spring and summer. A healthy spirea will bloom so profusely that it looks like an explosion of flowers in the garden, producing delicate clusters of small flowers. In the fall, spirea shrubs drop their leaves, returning with fresh green foliage in the spring.

One of the big advantages to spirea in the eyes of gardeners is that it is a very hardy genus, and spirea bushes will grow almost anywhere. Ideally, spirea likes full sun and well-drained soil, but it will tolerate part sun to shade, and a variety of soils, including dense clay soils and poor soils which offer little in the way of nutrition. Spirea also requires little in the way of pruning or watering, which can be useful in a garden with high-maintenance types.

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Spirea comes in two basic types. The bridal veil type has long, arching branches with drooping sprays of flowers, and it requires a lot of room to grow. Compact spireas have smaller, upright branches and flower clusters, and they fit in a variety of spaces in the garden. Both can be heavily pruned and shaped to make hedges and topiary, but gardeners with limited space often choose compact spireas to ensure that their plants have room to thrive.

If you want to grow spirea in your garden, select a spot which is as sunny as possible. If you have poor soil, consider adding compost or manure to the soil in the area around the plant, but otherwise, a spirea plant can be planted as-is. Add slow-acting fertilizer to the soil around the plant in the spring, and consider mulching to protect the roots. Beyond that, spirea requires little care beyond watering in the dry season, and pruning to keep the plant from sprawling.

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