Itea japonica
Common Name: Japanese sweetspire 
Type: Deciduous shrub
Family: Iteaceae
Native Range: Japan
Zone: 6 to 9
Height: 8.00 to 12.00 feet
Spread: 10.00 to 15.00 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
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.

This species is infrequently grown in the U.S., and may be difficult to locate in commerce. Itea japonica 'Beppu' is a popular cultivar that is currently undergoing review as to whether it is a cultivar of I. japonica as originally reported or is in fact a clone of I. virginica.


No serious insect or disease problems.


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