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).
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