Botanical Name: Itea virginica ‘Henry’s Garnet’
Common Name: ‘Henry’s Garnet’ Sweetspire
Description: This is a wonderful nativar of Itea virginica, which is native to Florida. The only differences between the two is Henry’s grows shorter, has larger flowers, and has better fall color than the species. Henry’s may be a nativar, but it is still an excellent pollinator attractor.
It is an attractive, deciduous to semi-evergreen shrub with showy fragrant flowers. It’s a moderate grower to 3-5′ tall and 4-6′ wide. It has a beautiful arching growth habit, so please don’t shear this into a square or a round ball. This plant can be used in many places in the garden including around a pond since it does not mind wet soil as long as the soil is well-drained. ‘Henry’s Garnet’ grows best in part sun, part shade, or shade. It flowers more if given about four hours of sun per day. If grown in shade, it will have a more open and leggy habit. It likes growing in a moist, slightly acidic soil, but also adapts to a regular gardening environment. Can grow in sandy, humusy, or clay soils. It can spread by root suckering, but not as much as the species does. The suckering makes it a great choice for erosion control in wet areas or on wet banks. In the wild, Virginia Sweetspire can be found growing in wetlands, along stream beds, and along the margins of lakes and ponds. Add this to your rain garden, low spot, gutter drain area, etc. It is somewhat drought tolerant after becoming established, but looks best with supplemental water during extended drought times in the summer. Resistant to Phytophthora root rot.
Beautiful, fragrant white flowers bloom in spring and summer (around May to June). Each raceme is about 3 to 6 inches. The flowers open from base to tip. They bloom on previous year’s growth, so do any needed pruning right after blooming is finished. Butterflies, bees, and other pollinators are attracted to the flowers. Songbirds eat the seeds and the fruit. Deer tend to leave it alone.
Leaves are generally 1 to 4 inches long and turn reddish purple in autumn often persisting on the plants until early winter. Leaves have an acute apex and cuneate base, have a finely serrated margin, are glabrous above and can be slightly pubescent below. Pubescent petiole up to 1/4″ long with a groove on the upper side.
Not salt tolerant of inundation by salty or brackish water. Low/no tolerance of salty wind or direct salt spray.
This plant in 3-gallon containers is 1.5 – 3′ tall.
Plant Lore: The genus name, Itea, comes from the Greek word meaning “willow”, which is in reference to the similarity of the leaves or flower clusters to those of some willow plants. Specific epithet means of Virginia.
Florida Hardiness Zones 8 – 9