Itea virginica - Virginia Sweetspire
Family: Escalloniaceae

Hear the scientific name

Itea virginica is a species known as a tough shrub with fragrant, white, mid-summer inflorescences that have a narrow bottlebrush appearance, scarlet or mixed autumn color, suckering and naturalizing habit, and wet or dry site tolerance. Virginia Sweetspire popular cultivar 'Henry's Garnet' is a compact form that is superior in all traits, but especially in its foliage and flowers.

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  form Form

-small- to medium-sized, deciduous to semi-evergreen ornamental shrub

-species form matures at 6' tall x 6' wide, but the primary cultivar is about half that size

-upright rounded growth habit

-slow growth rate except for the basal shoots of the species form, which have a medium to rapid growth rate

foliage Foliage

-species form has broadleaf foliage that is medium green, slowly deciduous to semi-evergreen to evergreen, depending upon hardiness zone of location; 'Henry's Garnet' is intensely burgundy-green and glossy, especially on the new growth

-leaves are alternate, oblong, and serrated

-autumn color for the species is crimson-burgundy in full sun, and a mixture of green, yellow, orange, and scarlet in partial sun to full shade, while 'Henry's Garnet' is a deep and glossy burgundy under all light conditions

-coloring from early Oct. through early Dec., with the predominate coloration occuring in Nov.

Flowers
flowers

-white, 4" long x 1/2" wide fragrant inflorescences bloom from mid-June into early July, being held upright, horizontal, or curving and pendulous, and somewhat bottlebrush-like in appearance

Fruit
fruit

-small capsules on a fruiting stalk are green changing to brown, not showy but winter persistent and a good ID feature

Twig

-on the species form, young stems are light brown or green, while old stems are gray-brown and striated, with small buds

-on 'Henry's Garnet', the young stems are purplish red, slowly changing to shades of red, brown, and green as the stems mature

Trunk

-not applicable

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Culture

-full sun to full shade

-prefers moist, rich, slightly acidic soils in partial sun to partial shade, but is highly adaptable to neutral or alkaline pH soils, soils of average fertility, wet sites, or dry sites

-propagated primarily by rooted cuttings, but also by seed or by separation of the root suckers

-Saxifrage Family (some sources list it under the Iteaceae or Escalloniaceae), with no serious disease or pest problems

-the species form is rarely available, but the cultivar 'Henry's Garnet' is commonly available in container form

Hardiness

-zones 5 to 9

Origin

-native to the Southern U.S.

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Assets

-attractive and fragrant white inflorescences at the branch tips in early to mid-summer

-hightly adaptable

-brilliant scarlet or mixed color autumn foliage

the species form will develop colonies and easily naturalizes, exhibiting erosion control in wet or sloped sites by basal suckering (if this is desired)

Liabilities

-the species form will spread beyond its originally intended space by peripheral suckers, creating a tangled colony of erect and arching stems

Function

-foundation, specimen, border, group planting, or naturalizing shrub, effectively used in sunny to shady and/or dry to wet sites

Texture

-medium-fine texture in foliage and when bare

-thick density in foliage and when bare

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Varieties and Cultivars - Search OSU PlantFacts for additional plants in this species

Alternates

-shrubs with fragrant flowers (Clethra alnifolia, Hamamelis vernalis or Hamamelis x intermedia cultivar, Philadelphus species, Syringa species and cultivars, etc.) or those flowering in summer (Clethra alnifolia, Heptacodium miconioides, Hibiscus syriacus, Hydrangea species, Hypericum species, Philadelphus species, etc.)

-shrubs with prolonged and vibrant autumn color (Euonymus alata, Fothergilla gardenii, Hamamelis x intermedia 'Arnold Promise', Hydrangea quercifolia, Spiraea x bumalda 'Goldflame', Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum 'Mariesii', etc.)

-shrubs tolerant of dry, continuously moist, or wet sites (Cornus alba, C. racemosa, C. sanguinea, or C. sericea, Hydrangea quercifolia, Salix purpurea, etc.)

 


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