Itea virginica, commonly referred to as Virginia Sweetspire, is covered with its white racemes today. The honey-scented blooms are not only beautiful but attract numerous pollinators into the garden. Virginia Sweetspire is an easy to grow shrub, as long as you can provide water during dry spells. Itea loves moisture and tolerates wet, boggy, or even soggy soil. But I also know it to be quite drought tolerant, since I have one that has survived years with no supplemental water. That one has grown very slowly and only blooms when we have a rainy spring like we had this year. The Virginia Sweetspire I planted more recently that gets plenty of regular water has outgrown the other at a rapid speed and shows off every year for me whether it rains or not, but it gets regular water.
Itea likes rich soil and would love it if planted on a creek bank or the edge of a pond. I have neither, but it does just fine at the edge of my greenhouse garden where I can water it often.
Itea is a plant that is beautiful in all seasons. During Summer after the blooms have faded, the leaves remain a rich green, no matter how hot it gets. In Fall, its leaves turn a brilliant shades of burgundy to scarlet red, making it a great alternative to the invasive Burning Bush. In our climate, Itea is semi-evergreen since leaves will remain on the shrub during our sometimes mild winters. So even when not in bloom, Itea virginica is an asset in the garden.
Itea virginica is a native shrub found growing in the Southeastern United States, but can be grown just about anywhere, since it's hardy in USDA Zones 5-9.
'Henry's Garnet' shows off larger flowers than the species and has excellent fall color. It is a larger growing cultivar reaching up to 6 feet in height.
'Merlot' is famous for its maroon fall foliage and, at only about 4 feet tall, is more compact than 'Henry's Garnet.'