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Search for native plants by scientific name, common name or family. If you are not sure what you are looking for, try the Combination Search or our Recommended Species lists.

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Itea virginica (Virginia sweetspire)
Beckers, Eric

Itea virginica

Itea virginica L.

Virginia Sweetspire, Tassel-white, Virginia Willow

Saxifragaceae (Saxifrage Family)


USDA Symbol: itvi

USDA Native Status: L48 (N)

Virginia sweetspire is a mound-shaped, slender-branched, deciduous shrub to 10 ft. Small, white flowers bloom in 4 in. spires that droop with the arching branches. Flowers open from base to tip so that the plant appears to bloom for a long time. Leaves turn red to purple in fall and persist well into the winter. This plant is semi-evergreen in the southern part of its range.

The long tassels of white flowers and red fall foliage make this an attractive ornamental. Most effective in massed plantings, as single plants tend to be scraggly.


From the Image Gallery

30 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Shrub
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Fruit Type: Capsule
Size Notes: Usually 3 to 6 feet, but can reach 10 feet tall.
Leaf: Green, red in autumn
Autumn Foliage: yes
Flower: Flowers in 4 inch spires
Fruit: Brown

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr , May , Jun


USA: AL , AR , DC , DE , FL , GA , IL , IN , KY , LA , MD , MO , MS , NC , NJ , OK , PA , SC , TN , TX , VA
Native Distribution: S. NJ to KY, s. IL, MO & OK, s. to FL & TX
Native Habitat: Wet, wooded stream banks; swamps; low pine barrens

Growing Conditions

Water Use: High
Light Requirement: Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
Soil pH: Acidic (pH<6.8)
CaCO3 Tolerance: Medium
Soil Description: Moist, acid soils. Acid-based, Sandy, Sandy Loam, Medium Loam, Clay Loam, Clay
Conditions Comments: It blooms best and has better fall color if grown in an area that receives full sun at least part of the day. Can grow in swamps and other areas of poor drainage. Should be watered during droughts outside its natural habitat.


Use Ornamental: Understory, Erosion control, Showy, Fall conspicuous
Use Wildlife: Cover, Nectar-insects
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Attracts: Birds


Propagation Material: Seeds , Semi-hardwood Cuttings
Description: Seeds are very tiny and germinate best if sown thinly in flats in a greenhouse. Sweetspire grows best if kept in a container one year. Semi-hardwood cuttings taken in late summer or early fall will root.
Seed Collection: Collect seed in late summer or early fall. Remove from capsule and store in sealed, refrigerated containers.
Seed Treatment: Seeds require no pretreatment.
Commercially Avail: yes
Maintenance: Water during droughts.

Mr. Smarty Plants says

Native plant to replace invasive non-native nandina in Houston
February 28, 2010
I'm just now finding out that Nandinas are an invasive species from our local chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas. I have three of them in my front yard and want to replace them. Can you sug...
view the full question and answer

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Texas Discovery Gardens - Dallas, TX
Delaware Nature Society - Hockessin, DE
Crosby Arboretum - Picayune, MS
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department - Austin, TX
Georgia Native Plant Society - Atlanta, GA
Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE


Bibref 1620 - Gardening with Native Plants of the South (Reprint Edition) (2009) Wasowski, S. with A. Wasowski
Bibref 841 - Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants (2006) Burrell, C. C.
Bibref 318 - Native Texas Plants: Landscaping Region by Region (2002) Wasowski, S. & A. Wasowski
Bibref 291 - Texas Wildscapes: Gardening for Wildlife (1999) Damude, N. & K.C. Bender

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Web Reference

Webref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

Research Literature

Reslit 530 - Post-transplant Irrigation Scheduling for Two Native Deciduous Shrub Taxa (2010) A. B. Griffin, A. N. Wright, K. M. Tilt and D. J. ...
Reslit 2091 - Itea Virginica - Virginia Sweetspire or Virginian Willow (1969) F. C. Galle
Reslit 2484 - Limited flooding tolerance of juveniles restricts the distribution of adults in an understory shrub (Itea virginica; Iteaceae) (2009) J. T. Anderson, A. A. Landi and P. L. Marks
Reslit 2529 - Evaluating woody ornamentals for use in herbicide phytoremediation (2002) M. Baz and R. T. Fernandez

This information was provided by the Florida WIldflower Foundation.
Search More Titles in Research Literature

From the Archive

Wildflower Newsletter 1998 VOL. 15, NO.5 - Native Shrubs Providing Landscape Heritage and Habitat, Executive Director\'s Re...

Additional resources

USDA: Find Itea virginica in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Itea virginica in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Itea virginica


Record Modified: 2023-02-14
Research By: TWC Staff

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