Plant of the month


Each month, OGV sub-committee member, Gayle Parkes, presents the 'Plant of the month'. She also posts to OGV's Instagram - make sure you check back regularly for her latest post. This month Gayle brings us Spiraea.

Spiraea, sometimes spelled Spirea in common names, is a genus of about 80 to 100 species of shrubs in the family Rosaceae. They are native to the temperate northern hemisphere, with the greatest diversity in eastern Asia.

Another old fashioned favourite, Spiraea, always known to me as the May Bush, has proven to be well worthy of its place in our gardens. With its timeless elegance, this very versatile shrub gives so much pleasure each spring when its beautiful tiny clusters of frothy, mainly white blooms burst forth, covering its delicate cascading branches with a snow-like cloak. Its form is graceful with its arching branches and open habit. The flowering season in its native China is late Spring - hence, the common name, May Bush - whereas here in the southern hemisphere that is usually September/October.

Spiraea is one of the most commonly used landscape plants, and for good reason. This hardy semi-deciduous shrub is low-maintenance, with an added bonus that it attracts bees, butterflies and other insect pollinators. There are many species of Spireas (greater than 80), ranging in sizes, colours, and forms. The delicate lacy flowers can be white, pink, and sometimes even a dark, rich pink. The finely toothed foliage comes in shades of grey green, chartreuse or gold, with some varieties putting on a showy autumn display. Depending on the variety, Spiraea bushes grow from 50cm to 2metres tall.

These attractive shrubs are known for their fuss-free requirements, and easy-care nature. Once planted, the care of Spiraea requires a minimal time investment. They are fast growing and should be grown in moist well-drained soil in full sun for best flowering. They can, however, tolerate partial shade. 

They can be used as an informal hedge, a feature shrub, in mixed beds and borders, and are very much at home in cottage gardens.

Of course, adding mulch around the plant will help retain moisture and regular summer watering will promote healthy blooms and growth. Spring bloomers can be tidied up right after the flowers have finished. Remove dead wood and trim any scruffy canes to the ground. 

No matter which variety you choose, growing Spiraea shrubs is sure to add interest and lasting beauty to your landscape for many years to come. Now that the nurseries are opening up again (YAY!!!) you will find a variety of Spiraea in the medium to large shrub section of your local garden centre. There is a fabulous specimen in my neighbour’s garden across the road. I have visited it often over the last few weeks!