Plant of the Week: MR. MUSTARD™ False spirea

It’s Fat Bear Week! (Yes, it’s really a thing.) Much like our Shrub Madness bracket tournament in March, hosts a “fat bear” week where you can vote on the week’s fattest bears and create a bracket to make your own predictions! Click here to read about each bear in the contest.

Now, how do you relate fat bears to shrubs? Read on…

What does a bear do when it’s sick and tired of salmon? Add mustard!
Okay, not really. Bears don’t get bored with salmon. Neither do many people, but fish is always nice with a mustard sauce. My personal fondness for really any kind of mustard can now extend into my garden: meet Mr. MustardSorbaria sorbifolia, otherwise known as false spirea.

Sorbaria sorbifolia is a tough, adaptable plant with good deer resistance. Mr. Mustard™ has very appealing yellow spring foliage with flashes of red, pink, and orange. Not only does it hold its color better than ‘Sem,’ but it’s about half the size: 2-3′ tall and 3-4′ wide.

Look for white flowers in summer. They’re a favorite of many pollinators. You’ll notice that by midsummer, the yellow color has faded. That gives the white flowers even more impact against the green foliage. That should work nicely under hydrangeas because, by midsummer, you don’t need any distracting yellow foliage when you’ve got hydrangea flowers to enjoy. But in spring – wow – this plant will be spectacular.

Just as mustard isn’t everyone’s condiment of choice, Mr. Mustard™ isn’t for every garden. For one, it’s a plant for USDA 2-7 (think Kodiak bear territory). But if you’re in a cold climate like this and need something with bright spring color to fill in a challenging space, this is the plant for you.

It can also sucker a bit, so you want to use it in a constricted area to contain its growth. It will grow in full sun or part shade.

Now that I’ve shown it to you, I have to admit that you can’t get this plant yet. But it should start cropping up online late next season…and at garden centers in 2022.

But read on if you want to get your hands on a preview plant.

I know you’re not done learning about the bears yet.
Me neither. has live webcams where you can see the bears in action! You can catch them here on the Bear Cam – Lower River, here on the River Watch Bear Cam, or on many other cams, they have located at the Katmai National Park in Alaska.

Seems like a pretty fun activity for any parent to do with their kids, especially for those who are looking for homeschooling content. has a page that tells us what’s important about fat bears, and this page has loads of other lesson plans.

Inspired to help? Here is more information about the Katmai Conservancy. Katmai National Park and Preserve, with its 4 million acres, is the fourth largest park in the National Park system but is one of the least funded. With its amazing array of wildlife, coastal and river ecosystems, majestic mountains, and volcanoes, Katmai is a true National treasure.

Here’s a bonus, when you make a donation in any amount to the Conservancy, let me know, and I’ll put you on my list to receive a free quart of Mr. Mustard false spirea next summer when bear-ly anyone else can find one yet!

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