This is a type of Spirea japonica.  This family of spirea includes many varieties such as ‘Little Princess’, Gold Mound’, ‘Shirobana’ (pictured) and others.

Often this plant grows out of its space and needs a good pruning.  Well, this is the time to do it (i.e. late winter – early spring) before the leaves start to come out.

Spirea japonica is one of those plants you can cut back quite severely and it will flush out in new growth and look fine for the season.  Flowering will not be affected either because it flowers on new growth.

How To Prune Spirea japonica

If its an older Spirea japonica you could do an overall cutting back.  With this approach you can literally cut the stems to your desired size.  I like to also thin the plant by pruning out some of the thicker, older stems right at the base.   The plant will love the rejuvenation…and so will you.

Research Before You Prune

You can learn so much about a plant with a little research.  Of course nothing substitutes for experience, but a quick “look-up” can avoid a costly mistake.  In terms of pruning you should be concerned not only with how (best technique), but also when to prune.  Plants are different from one another in so many ways and when you begin to understand these differences it really shows.

Everyday I see overgrown landscapes and unhealthy plants.  Most of these problems could have been avoided with a little research and plant knowledge.

I’ll continue to post articles to share with you many of the experiences I’ve had (and continue to have) in my career.  I really enjoy talking about it and hopefully you’ll gain some helpful tips.

Do you have a plant that you’re unsure how and when to prune?  Just leave a comment.

  • David Clark
    4:19 PM, 13 November 2013

    when and how to fertilize spirea? would plant benefit from superphosphate? Should plant be mulched?

    • Roger
      10:39 PM, 13 November 2013

      You can fertilize in the spring.
      I would simply broadcast a granular fertilizer at the base of the plant – not close to the stems & trunk, but rather more outward towards the dripline.
      I’d use an organic based fertilizer such as Plant-tone by Espoma.
      With regard to using a super-phosphate, it’s unlikely you need to, but only with a soil test would you know if extra phosphorous is needed. In my area soil tests consistently show adequate to high levels in the soil. When I did plant fertilizing I would use fertilizers with little or no phosphorous.
      Mulching would help the spirea too. Here’s a short article on the blog about mulching.

  • Edward Geisler
    6:40 PM, 13 August 2016

    Should the dead blooms be pruned from the spirea as they die back? Will this produce more blooms?

    • Roger
      11:18 PM, 14 August 2016

      If you don’t mind looking at the spent blooms I’d just let them fade as they will.

      New blooms form on new wood the following year. And I don’t think removing dead blooms would have any affect on new blooms (quantity or quality) the following year.

  • Mary Kay
    7:17 PM, 30 April 2017

    Hi Roger…’s my lucky day as I just stumbled onto your website! I have a question about abelia…have it in a raised bed in front of my house, southern exposure and I irrigate the bed. I thought abelia was an evergreen, but these shrubs lost a lot of leaves over their first winter and I wasn’t that cold ..that I remember. Also, they shot out tall “spikes” from the center, and I didn’t know what to do with that part….was kind of goofy looking as the rest of the shrub was “looser, or floppy”….so some advice on maintenance would be appreciated…….

    • Roger
      11:55 AM, 3 May 2017

      Mary Kay,
      Once you have Abelia in a northern climate, i.e. Zone 6 or lower, it reacts more like a perennial. It will likely lose its leaves and some of its stems can die-back too.

      Prune out any deadwood and prune back the long, wayward stems to neaten up the plant.

      Abelia are acid loving, so you could feed them with Hollytone. They also prefer moist soil, but not wet. Be careful not to over-water.

  • Bernard
    8:38 AM, 11 March 2018

    Good Morning Roger,

    My spirea Japonica shirobana already has some leaves;is it too late to prune it?
    Thank you for letting me know.

    • Roger
      1:12 PM, 11 March 2018

      No, not at all. Pruning now is OK, even if it’s pushing some new growth.

      In my experience this is one tough category of plants. I use it frequently because it is so hardy, it’s deer resistant (major issue in our area) and it can be easily controlled in terms of size while also retaining its “good looks”. Who could ask for anything more? 🙂

  • Rachael Lyon
    3:59 AM, 21 April 2018

    Hi there,

    Noting earlier posts about pruning…. it’s now mid April and my Spira has quite a lot of new growth. Is it also ok to prune back?



    • Roger
      9:17 AM, 21 April 2018

      You should be fine. They do flower on new growth, so some flowering should still occur this summer.

      The plant may look a little “rough” after pruning — depending on how hard you cut back — but should recover with the new season’s growth. In the future try to schedule pruning spirea japonica varieties in late winter to “early” spring.

  • Anette
    10:26 AM, 27 April 2018

    Hi, just wanted to say thank you for your info about Spirea. I have spent many hours searching Norwegian websites, but they are all very contradictory.. You seem to have good knowledge and experience.

    • Roger
      2:34 PM, 28 April 2018

      Thank you for your kind words. I write about plants and landscaping, in general, from my experiences over the years. Certainly education and references always help, but I find with plants (in particular) you really learn about their individual preferences and behavior by observation.

      Good luck with your spirea!

  • Tammy
    9:00 PM, 2 May 2018

    Do these or all Spirea sucker or become invasive? Thank you for your time.

    • Roger
      10:31 AM, 4 May 2018

      I have found the Spirea ‘japonica’ varieties can sucker a bit. But in my experience (in my area) I would not call it invasive.

  • Tammy
    1:21 PM, 4 May 2018

    Thank you for your reply..

  • Linda
    1:30 PM, 2 June 2018

    My ShirobabaSpirea is very green and bushy but few buds. Realized It is not getting enough sun, so I have to move. Should i cut back before transplant? it is not best time but

    • Roger
      10:36 PM, 2 June 2018

      It’s risky to try and move the Spirea now (June). Transplanting in early spring would be ideal. If you have to move this year, I would wait until early fall (beginning of Oct.).

      Today the thinking is to not cut back plants when transplanting. If the plant is top-heavy and unwieldy, I will cut back enough to make handling the plant easier and to have it sit more stable in its new spot. Otherwise, I will not cut back the plant.

  • Linda
    10:20 AM, 5 June 2018

    Thankyou. I was going to take a chance and move it now but as prices for most new plants have really increased, I wait til fall.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *