Plant of the Week: SCENTLANDIA® Sweetspire

I was helping my parents with some fall cleanup in their yard this weekend and stopped to admire their Little Henry® sweetspire (Itea); it still had bright fall color despite snow a week ago. Granted, this weekend we were enjoying 70F+, but I hadn’t really expected to see that lovely foliage (not to mention the Bloomerang® lilac flaunting one last bloom).

Little Henry® is a really nice selection of our native Itea virginica, and now we have Scentlandia® and Fizzy Mizzy™ as well.

Scentlandia (upper left) has especially vibrant fall foliage and more cold-hardy flowers. If you’re at the northern edge of sweetspire’s range (USDA 5-9), that improved bud hardiness is significant.

Fizzy Mizzy® has great fall foliage, too, but what really makes it distinctive is the abundant spikes of white flowers in summer. Whereas other sweetspires have pendulous racemes that gracefully drape from the plants in early summer, Fizzy Mizzy’s flowers stand up above the foliage. When you see a block of them in the greenhouse, it’s kind of like the plants are doing The Wave.

Itea virginica is a good plant for filling in larger spaces in the garden or controlling erosion. The species can get as much as 8′ tall, but these cultivars stay around 2-3′ tall and wide so they will fit easily into most landscapes.

Sweetspire will grow in sun or shade, but like most plants, you’ll have more flowers and brighter fall color with more sun.

Burning bush? What burning bush?
It’s hard to miss burning bush in the fall. That foliage is just amazing. But the plant is a bit of a pest in some areas, and we need to be proactive about offering some responsible alternatives for reliable fall color. Sweetspire, like Scentlandia and soon Fizzy Mizzy, are good candidates. Here are some other plants to look at:

Diervilla, especially Kodiak® Orange and Kodiak® Red
Low Scape Hedger® Aronia melanocarpa – no fruit to litter sidewalks!
Red Rover® Cornus obliqua (good for wet sites)
Legend of the Fall® Fothergilla


  1. Hello there, I just planted 3 Scentlandia Sweetspire plants. They have no leaves currently. I live in zone 9 in southern California and was wondering when I can expect leaves to begin appearing. Thank you

    • Hi there!
      It sounds like these plants were dormant when you got them, which does sometimes happen, especially if they were purchased online. Most likely, they’ve come from a much colder climate than yours, and as they start to settle in and get exposed to the warmer temperatures, they should start to leaf out naturally. Keep watering them and caring for them as if they were purchased in full leaf. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us here if you have any concerns:
      Happy Gardening!

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