Itea japonica 'Beppu'
Common Name: Japanese sweetspire 
Type: Deciduous shrub
Family: Iteaceae
Zone: 6 to 9
Height: 2.00 to 3.00 feet
Spread: 3.00 to 5.00 feet
Bloom Time: June to July
Bloom Description: White
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium to wet
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Naturalize, Rain Garden
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Leaf: Good Fall
Tolerate: Heavy Shade, Erosion, Clay Soil, Wet Soil


Grow in average, medium to wet, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Prefers moist, humusy soils, but tolerates a wide range of soil conditions. This is a rapid-growing shrub that naturalizes by root suckers to form large colonies if left unchecked. Winter hardy to USDA Zone 6. Shrubs are semi-evergreen to evergreen in warm winter climates (USDA Zones 8-10), but deciduous in the St. Louis area, often dying to the ground in winter with roots surviving to push up new growth in spring.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Itea japonica, sometimes commonly called Japanese sweetspire, is a semi-evergreen, suckering shrub that is native to woodland areas in Japan. It typically grows to 10-12' tall and to 12-15' wide. Ovate to oblong, rich green leaves (to 4 1/4" long and 2 1/4" wide) may in some climates produce an attractive reddish-purple fall color. Tiny white flowers in upright, many-flowered clusters (catkin-like drooping racemes to 8" long) bloom in mid-summer. Ornamentally insignificant seed capsules.

Genus name comes from the Greek word for willow in reference to the similarity of the leaves or flower clusters to those of some willows.

Specific epithet means of Japan.

'Beppu' is particularly noted for its excellent reddish-purple fall color. It typically grows to 3' tall but spreads by root suckers to 5' or more. Six Japanese sweetspire plants were collected in 1955 by John Creech of the USDA at Hot Springs Utility Station, Beppu, Kyushu, Japan. These plants were subsequently introduced by the USDA under the name of 'Beppu'. More recent research indicates that 'Beppu' may actually be a clone of Itea virginica (U.S. species introduced in Japan as early as 1887) rather than a cultivar of Itea japonica.


No serious insect or disease problems.


Moist areas of the landscape. Erosion control. Banks. Naturalized areas.