Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Itea - Sweet Spire

A small genus of 10 species of shrubs and small trees native to eastern Asia and North America. The flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds.
They prefer full sun to partial shade on moist, fertile, well drained soils of various PH and structure. Propagation is either from seed or from half hardened cuttings taken during summer for the cultivars. Itea is not generally eaten by deer, pest and disease problems are rare.

Itea chinensis ( Chinese Sweetspire )
A large, vigorous, arching, evergreen shrub reaching around 10 feet that is native to western China. Some records include: 3 years - 9 feet; largest on record - 17 x 11 feet.
Due to the plants habit of arching over itself, older plants may occasionally need their centers thinned out.
The almost holly-like, toothed foliage, up to 5 x 2 inches in size, is deep green.
The tiny white flowers are borne in narrow racemes up to 8 inches in length.
Small brown seed capsules follow.
Hardy zones 7 to 9 ( tolerating 0 F with no damage ), while hardy in Maryland & D.C. it does not enjoy full sun in the Mid Atlantic.

Itea ilicifolia ( Hollyleaf Sweetspire )
A graceful, narrow, erect, evergreen shrub reaching up to around 13 feet that is native to western China. Some records include: fastest recorded growth rate - 2 feet; largest on record - 23 x 23 feet.
The leaves, up to 5 x 2.7 inches are edged with small spines and resemble that of Ilex opaca Holly. The foliage is glossy deep green.
The honey scented, cream colored flowers are borne in attractive drooping racemes up to 15 inches in length during late summer. It blooms on previous years wood.
Hardy zones 7 to 10 ( 6 if planted against a south facing wall ) in partial to full shade preferring a protected woodland environment. An excellent plant for use as an informal screen, it also looks great near water. Mulch during winter is recommended for young plants. Can be reproduced from softwood cuttings in summer.

* photo taken @ U.S. Botanical Garden, Wash., DC on Aug 25 2014


Itea japonica ( Japanese Sweetspire )
A very fast growing, suckering, large shrub, reaching a maximum size of 12 x 15 feet, that is native to central and southern Japan. Some records include: 5 years - 6 feet.
The ovate to oval leaves are up to 5 x 2.3 inches in size. The rich mid-green foliage turns to red late in autumn. It is evergreen in zone 8 and warmer.
The white flowers are borne in clusters, up to 8 inches in length, during late spring into early summer.
Hardy zones 6 to 9

'Beppa'
Lower and slower growing ( 12 inches per year ) with exceptional purple-red autumn foliage color persisting through the winter.
Tolerates as low as -6 F with only some foliage damage. Survives as
far north as zone 5b if protected from winter winds.

'Nana'
An excellent groundcover form reaching a maximum height of 6 feet.

Itea virginiana ( Virginia Sweetspire )
A large deciduous shrub reaching up to 8 feet or more, that is native to eastern U.S. from Missouri and southern Illinois to eastern Penn. & New Jersey; south to Louisiana to Florida. Some records include: fastest recorded growth rate - 5 feet; 5 years - x 8 feet; 10 years - 13 x 13 feet; largest on record - 20 x 10 feet or more in width.
The finely toothed semi-evergreen leaves, up to 4 inches in length are luxuriant green turning intense shades of red & orange in autumn, often persisting well into winter.
The honey scented, creamy white flowers are borne in dense, narrow erect racemes up to 8 inches in length. The flowers borne on year old wood during mid summer also attract butterflies.
Hardy zones 5 to 9 ( protected sites in zone 4b as it has survived over 60 years at Dominion Arboretum in Ottawa, Canada ) in sun or shade. Tolerant of swampy conditions as well as drought. It can be cut to ground during early spring to renovate. Otherwise pruning in autumn or spring consists of removing enough older shoots to make room for new growth.

* photo taken on July 26 2015 @ Niagara Parks Bot. Gardens, Niagara Falls, ON

* photo taken on Nov 19 2016 @ London Town Gardens, Edgewater, MD

* photos taken on May 28 2017 in Howard Co., MD


'Henrys Garnet'
Fast growing to 6 x 8 feet or larger. Some records include: 5 years - 4 x 8 feet; largest on record - 10 x 16.8 feet.
The leaves are larger than average, to 6 x 2 inches and turn to intense scarlet-red during autumn making this an excellent native substitute for Euonymus alatus - Burningbush.
The white flowers are borne on spikes up to 6 inches in length.
Evergreen to 15 F; hardy to -20 F

* photos taken on June 1 2010 in Crownsville, MD


* photo taken on annual Horticultural Society of Maryland Garden Tour

* photo taken on October 14 2010 in Crownsville, MD

* photos taken on May 9 2012 in Columbia, MD

* photos taken on May 21 2012 in Columbia, MD

* photo taken on June 1 2014 @ Maryland Horticulturalist Society garden tour, Ellicott City

* photo taken on Oct 21 2014 @ U.S. Botanical Gardens, Washington, DC

* photo taken on Nov 10 2014 in Columbia, MD

* photos taken on May 27 2017 @ Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, Vienna, VA

* photo taken on May 28 2017 in Howard Co., MD


'Little Henry'
Lower growing than species to 4 x 5 feet. Some records include: fastest recorded growth rate - 2.5 feet; 10 years - 4 x 4 feet ( avg ); largest on record - 4.5 x 6 feet.
The luxuriant green leaves are smaller than average, up to 4 x 2 inches and turn intense scarlet-red during autumn.
The fragrant white flowers are borne in spikes up to 6 inches in length.

* photo taken on October 14 2010 in Crownsville, MD


* photos taken on Nov 1 2011 in Burtonsville, MD




* photo taken on Oct 24 2014 in Ellicott City, MD

* photos taken on June 3 2016 in Columbia, MD

* photo taken on May 18 2017 in Columbia, MD

* photos taken on May 27 2017 @ Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, Vienna, VA

* photos taken on May 28 2017 in Howard Co., MD

* photo taken on June 25 2017 in Columbia, MD


'Merlot'
A compact dwarf, only reaching up to 4 x 6 feet with glossy foliage that turns attractive deep purple in autumn.

* photo taken on October 17 2010 @ U.S. National Arboretum, D.C.


* photo taken on June 12 2014 in Clarksville, MD

* photo taken on May 9 2016 in Columbia, MD


'Morton' ( Scarlet Beauty Virginia Sweetspire )
Reaches up to 6.5 feet, though rarely over 5 x 5 feet in 10 years, with intense scarlet-red fall color.
It is pest and disease free and hardier than average, north to zone 4b and thrives in parts of the Midwest such as Chicago more than other cultivars. It is more tolerant of alkaline soils than other Itea virginica.



'Saturnalia'
More upright than most selections of Itea virginica, it reaches up to 6.2 x 11.5 ( rarely over 4 ) feet.
It has healthy foliage that remains late into autumn, turning reds and purple.
The fragrant, white flowers are borne on drooping racemes up to 6 inches in length.
Hardy zones 5 to 9.

* photos taken on June 7 2014 in Columbia, MD

* photo taken on May 30 2015 in Columbia, MD

* photos taken on May 27 2017 @ Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, Vienna, VA


Itea yunnanensis
A Chinese native that is similar to Itea ilicifolia with similar but larger foliage.
The white flowers are borne in fuzzy catkins up to 8 inches in length.
Hardy zones 5 to 9 tolerating as low as -20 F

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