Spiraea thunbergii

Thunberg's spirea

bridalwreath spirea

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  • © Richie Steffen / Great Plant Picks

Outstanding Qualities

This deciduous shrub is noted for its very early flowering time and its wispy habit. In late March and early April, before its leaves have unfurled, its slender branches are covered with dazzling white flowers borne in numerous clusters. In summer its feathery leaves are bright green, creating a pleasing contrast with other, more stolid shrubs. In autumn the leaves turn bright orange and remain on the plant almost until Christmas in some years. Its twiggy, slender branches arch and flounce, giving Thunberg's spirea a uniquely soft textural quality.

Quick Facts

Plant Type: spreading shrub

Foliage Type: deciduous

Plant Height: 3 ft. 6 in. (1.07 meters)

Plant Width/Spread: 3 ft. 6 in. (1.07 meters)

Plant Height-Mature: 5 ft. 0 in. (1.52 meters)

Plant Width-Mature: 5 ft. 0 in. (1.52 meters)

Hardiness: USDA Zones 5 to 8

Flower Color: white

Sun/Light Exposure: full sun to light or open shade

Water Requirements: regular watering

Seasonal Interest: early spring flowers & autumn color

Wildlife Associations: bees, butterflies

Colors & Combos

Great Plant Combinations: Use it with other shrubs for softness or combine it with perennials. Play off its great autumn color by planting it with Hamamelis, Fothergilla, and Cotinus. Underplant it with snowdrops and other spring-flowering bulbs.

Great Color Contrasts: burgundy, gold, purple

Great Color Partners: dark green, chartreuse, blue

Culture Notes
This small spirea prefers full sun to light or open shade. Plant it in rich moist to well-drained soil, although it will tolerate clay if the drainage is adequate. Provide regular water to this small shrub to keep it looking its best through the summer. A few older stems can be pruned to the ground immediately after flowering every year. Alternatively, cut the entire shrub back to six to eight inches tall after it blooms every three or four years and allow it to regrow.
Geek Notes
This native of China has been grown in Japan for hundreds of years and was introduced from that country in about 1863. It is named for Swedish botanist Carl Peter Thunberg ((1743 to 1828), who collected plants in Japan in the 1770s.