Spiraea tomentosa

Species Native to Missouri
Common Name: steeplebush 
Type: Deciduous shrub
Family: Rosaceae
Native Range: Northern and central Europe, eastern United States
Zone: 3 to 8
Height: 2.00 to 4.00 feet
Spread: 3.00 to 5.00 feet
Bloom Time: July to September
Bloom Description: Pink to rose-purple
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium to wet
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Hedge, Naturalize, Rain Garden
Flower: Showy
Attracts: Butterflies
Tolerate: Deer, Erosion

Culture

Easily grown in average, acidic, moist to wet soils in full sun. Tolerates light shade. Tolerates a wide range of soils. Remove faded flower clusters as practicable to encourage additional bloom. Flowers on new wood, so prune in late winter to early spring if needed. Spreads by suckers to form colonies.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Spiraea tomentosa, called steeplebush or hardhack, is a suckering deciduous shrub that grows 2-4' tall with a slightly larger spread. It is native to wet meadows, wet pastures, boggy areas, marshes, fields, and lake margins from Nova Scotia to Ontario south to Kansas, Louisiana and Georgia. Elliptic to ovate, medium to dark green leaves (to 3” long) with coarse marginal teeth are tapered at both ends and densely tomentose (yellowish-brown hairs) beneath. No fall color. Tiny pink to rose to rose-purple flowers in dense, narrow, steeple-shaped, terminal spikes (to 4-8" long) bloom from top to bottom from mid-summer to early autumn. Flowers are attractive to butterflies.

Genus name comes from the Greek word speira meaning wreath in reference to the showy flower clusters seen on most shrubs in the genus.

Specific epithet means densely woolly for the hairy leaves.

Common name of steeplebush is in obvious reference to the shape of the flower spike, and the common name of hardhack is in reference to the tough plant stems.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Susceptible to many of the diseases that attack other rose family members, including leaf spot, fire blight and powdery mildew. Potential insect pests include aphids, leaf roller, caterpillars and scale.

Garden Uses

Needs moist acidic soils in order to grow well. Good selection for pond margins, low spots or other moist locations in the landscape. Mass or group. Low hedge for paths and walkways. Incorporate into foundation planting.