Common name: Scarlet Beauty Sweetspire
Botanical name: Itea virginica Scarlet Beauty (I. v. ‘Morton’)
Virtues: Blooms in summer; small, compact habit; good late fall foliage color; attracts butterflies.
Flowers: Drooping clusters of white flowers with a delicate fragrance appear from mid-June to early July. Attractive to butterflies.
Foliage: 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.
Habit: 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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