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Spiraea prunifolia

Phonetic Spelling
sp-i-RE-a pru-ni-FO-li-a
Description

Bridal wreath spirea is an old-fashioned, upright, clumping, flowering, deciduous shrub that grows from 4 to 8 feet tall and equally as wide.  It tends to be twiggy in form, loose and fountain-like. Most of the year this shrub is covered with dark green leaves. For a short period in the spring, this plant is a showstopper with its long cascading flowers. It is a member of the Rosaceae or rose family.

This shrub is native to China and Taiwan and is often found on sunny hillsides or in stony and barren places.

The genus name, Spiraea, is from the Greek word, speira, which means "wreath" and is about the shrub's showy flowers. The epithet prunifolia references the leaves that are like the genus Prunus.

The plant is easily grown in average, medium moisture, in well-drained soils, and does its best flowering when planted in full sun. It will tolerate light shade and a wide range of soils including clay. It is deer and somewhat drought tolerant. 

Because it is an upright, arching shrub that can become leggy, you may want to prune it as needed immediately after flowering. On the other hand, if left alone Bridal Wreath Spirea grows into what some consider a graceful, open, arching shrub with branches drooping to the ground. Whether it is leggy or elegant, seems to be a matter of taste.

The bridal wreath is noted for its early spring bloom of double white flowers that appear in profusion along the bare branches. The pure white flowers are borne in long sprays that can be fashioned into wreaths and worn on the head for a special occasion, hence the name. The foliage appears after the blooms as small, shiny dark green, elliptic to ovate leaves. Foliage often develops an attractive red-orange-yellow fall color.

S. prunifolia ‘Plena’ is the long-favored bridal wreath usually found in retail. Species plants as well as the single-flowered plant (Spiraea prunifolia var. simpliciflora) are generally not available. Note that the double-flowered plant was botanically described before the single-flowered plant, hence the double flower became the species, and the single flower became a variety or form of the species. 

Consider the Bridal wreath spiraea as a foundation planting, border, specimen, accent, and woodland area. It is particularly trouble-free even though it is a member of the Rosaceae family and works well in tough conditions. The brief profuse blooming of double white flowers in the early spring will be welcoming and add interest to the home landscape.

Seasons of Interest:

Bloom:  Spring                 Foliage:  Summer and Fall

Quick ID Hints:  

  • upright, clumping, deciduous shrub with arching branches
  • the bark is shiny, smooth, and brown
  • small, elliptical to ovate, shiny, dark green leaves with fine-toothed margins
  • double white flowers measuring 1/3 inch in diameter and appear in early spring
  • fruits are dry, brown follicles that remain on the shrub throughout the winter

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: This is an extremely durable shrub with no known serious insect or disease problems. However, it is susceptible to many of the diseases and insects that attack other rose family members, including leaf spot, fire blight, powdery mildew, root rot, aphids, leaf roller, and scale.

VIDEO created by Andy Pulte for “Landscape Plant Identification, Taxonomy and Morphology” a plant identification course offered by the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Tennessee.

 

 

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscape:
Backyard Patio
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Plena'
    double white flowers, dark green leaves summer, red-orange leaves in the fall
'Plena'
Tags:
#showy flowers#deciduous#full sun tolerant#drought tolerant#specimen#white flowers#shrub#spring flowers#slopes#cottage garden#hedges#flowering shrub#foundation planting#showstopper#double flowers#fantz#Asian garden#butterfly friendly#shrub borders#woodland garden#barrier#borders#landscape plant sleuths course
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Plena'
    double white flowers, dark green leaves summer, red-orange leaves in the fall
'Plena'
Tags:
#showy flowers#deciduous#full sun tolerant#drought tolerant#specimen#white flowers#shrub#spring flowers#slopes#cottage garden#hedges#flowering shrub#foundation planting#showstopper#double flowers#fantz#Asian garden#butterfly friendly#shrub borders#woodland garden#barrier#borders#landscape plant sleuths course
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Spiraea
    Species:
    prunifolia
    Family:
    Rosaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    China South-Central, China Southeast, and Taiwan
    Distribution:
    Introduced: Bulgaria, Japan, Korea, Nova Scotia, Ontario, and the US--AL, AR, CA, CT, DE, DC, GA, IL KY, LA, MD, MA, MI, MO, NJ, NY, NC, OH, PA, TN, VA, and WV
    Wildlife Value:
    Blossoms attract butterflies.
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    drought
    Dimensions:
    Height: 4 ft. 0 in. - 8 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 4 ft. 0 in. - 8 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Shrub
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Arching
    Clumping
    Erect
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Shallow Rocky
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    6-feet-12 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    5b, 5a, 6b, 6a, 7b, 7a, 8b, 8a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Fruit Type:
    Follicle
    Fruit Description:
    Dry, brown follicles appear after flowering is completed. They will remain on the shrub through the winter.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Corymb
    Umbel
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Petals:
    2-3 rays/petals
    4-5 petals/rays
    6 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    The inflorescence is a sessile umbellate cluster, axillary. Flowers are white, double, and about a 1/3 of an inch in diameter with 3-6 flowered clusters (stalkless corymbs). Blooms in March and April.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Orange
    Red/Burgundy
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Oblong
    Leaf Margin:
    Denticulate
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The leaves are dark green during the summer and turn red-orange-yellow in the fall. They have an alternate arrangement and are 1 to 2 inches long. They are elliptical and have finely toothed margins. The leaves are acute and denticulate. They are glabrous above and have a soft pubescent on the undersides of the leaf.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Light Brown
    Surface/Attachment:
    Shiny
    Bark Description:
    The bark is brown, smooth, and shiny.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Form:
    Zig Zags
    Stem Surface:
    Smooth (glabrous)
    Stem Description:
    Stems are slender, zig-zag, shiny brown, and glabrous.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Slope/Bank
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Asian Garden
    Butterfly Garden
    Cottage Garden
    Drought Tolerant Garden
    Design Feature:
    Barrier
    Border
    Foundation Planting
    Hedge
    Specimen
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Drought