University of Maryland Extension

Itea, Virginia sweetspire

Itea virginica

As a native shrub, sweetspires are found in wet soils throughout Maryland's Coastal Plain. Its uncommon good looks have made it a popular landscape plant. Purple-red tinted winter stems leaf out with clean classic summer foliage. June brings a cascade of white blooms in long racemes reminiscent of tassels, hence the other common name tassel-white. Planted or allowed to sucker naturally into mass plantings, iteas in full bloom can be “staggeringly beautiful” according to Dirr. Add to this mix a light fragrance and rich red fall leaf color. Highly versatile in the garden, itea will grow in full sun to shade, average to wet (even flooded) soils, and in clay, loam or sand. Full sun encourages lower, fuller habit. Itea in the wild reaches 3-5’ (rarely up to 10’) depending upon sun and moisture, and is great for naturalizing. 


Photo and text by Ellen Nibali


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