Scarlet Beauty Sweetspire

Scarlet Beauty Sweetspire Itea virginica Scarlet BeautyCommon name: Scarlet Beauty Sweetspire

Botanical name:
Itea virginica Scarlet Beauty (I. v. ‘Morton’)

Blooms in summer; small, compact habit; good late fall foliage color; attracts butterflies.

Drooping clusters of white flowers with a delicate fragrance appear from mid-June to early July. Attractive to butterflies.

Scarlet Beauty Sweetspire Itea virginica Scarlet BeautyFoliage: Medium green leaves turn scarlet red in fall, peaking in early November. Foliage lasts through a hard frost. Foliage may persist through winter in warm zones.

Deciduous shrub, 3 to 4 feet tall and 4 feet wide.

Season: Summer and fall.

Origin: Selected at the Morton Arboretum, Lisle, Illinois. “This is a time-proven shrub that’s been in the Arboretum collections since 1958, and has
been a top performer all along,” notes Kris Bachtell, a Morton Arboretum horticulturist and the vice-president of its collections and facilities. Bachtell selected the plant in 1999. It was tested through Chicagoland Grows, a partnership between the Morton Arboretum, Chicago Botanic Garden and Ornamental Growers Association of Northern Illinois. Found to be exceptionally hardy, healthy and appealing, it was released to the market in 2011. Itea virginica is native to swamps and freshwater shorelines of the southeastern U.S.

Cultivation: Prefers moist to wet acidic soil. Tolerates neutral or alkaline soils better than other Virginia sweetspires. Grows best in partial shade, but it will tolerate full sun if given adequate moisture. USDA Zones 4–9.

Images courtesy of the Morton Arboretum.


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3 thoughts on “Scarlet Beauty Sweetspire

  1. Pingback: Trees, Shrubs and Vines That Attract Butterflies - All About Gardening

  2. Something you did not mention about Itea is that it colonizes with suckers and becomes much wider. I am a horticulturist in the midwest and maintain residential gardens. Most people I know do not like this aspect but are never aware of it when purchasing the shrub. I do alot of removing the suckers and recommend that the shrubs be replaced with something else. The only time I recommend Itea is if someone has a wet area and has the room to let the shrubs fill in. Does the ‘Scarlet Beauty’ colonize?

    • ‘Scarlet Beauty’ does colonize, but gently, in my experience. I divided a 3-gallon pot into two clumps, one of which I planted in a moist area and one in a drier area. They are both doing well, but it wasn’t until the third spring that I had enough suckering from both of them to make another clump for transplanting elsewhere. I really like this plant for its white flowers in late spring and beautiful fall foliage. I don’t consider it to be invasive. My clumps are pretty self-contained so far.

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