How to Fix an Ugly Spirea

Filed under Plants, Misc by Lauren Cook on .

     Spireas are excellent shrubs for foundation plantings. They have beautiful blooms and thrive in a variety of soils and weather conditions. However, there is one common complaint about spireas that is hard to ignore. And that is, that after a few years spireas start to look...well, ugly. The truth is that not all spireas are doomed for ugliness. In fact, it's not their fault, but simple operator's error. If you waited for you spirea to leaf out this spring and all your spirea left you with was a few spindly leaves and some dead branches, then read on as I explain how to get your spirea looking pretty again and how to keep it from reverting back to “Ugly Spirea”.

Here is a picture of my “Ugly Spirea” this spring:


I waited a couple months, but the silly shrub never filled out, so I decided to give it a trim. I removed all of the dead branches, cutting them back as far back as I could. Some of the dead branches even broke off easily in my hand. Then I cut all of the sparse branches back to where their was lush foliage growing below. Don't worry if you cut off a few good branches in the process. It's all about getting more sunlight to the healthy growth hiding beneath all the nasty stuff.  Here is a picture of my spirea after I pruned it:

      In the end, I ended up with a bush about half the size as the one I began with, but check out the picture below, taken only two weeks after it's very liberal haircut.


As you can see, the shrub is now a full, healthy-looking plant. Who knew such a plant was hiding behind that very unattractive spirea. The spirea's revival has renewed my faith in this plant. Now, maybe it will renew yours!


How to keep your spirea looking beautiful:

      Spireas should be trimmed at least twice a year. One trimming should occur right after blooming in the spring. Trimming will not only keep the shrub nice and full, but it will stimulate new growth on the plant. Many spireas have a bright, red new growth that at times can be almost as ornamental as the flowers themselves. Lightly trimming you spirea after blooming will extend this shrub's season of interest. The second pruning should occur in late fall or early spring. This pruning will usually be a more drastic trim and you will remove more plant material from the plant than during the spring/summer prune previously discussed.

      To get a nice round shrub, a rope can be tightened around the plant and using your hedge shears, cut straight across the top. When you remove the rope, you will be left with a perfectly round spirea bush. If you don't have rope, cut flat across the top with your hedge shears. Then, turn your hedge shears over (so that they are angled downward) and trim around the sides of the plant. This is an easy way to a professional-looking prune.

      The general rule to remember when pruning spireas is that they love to be pruned. Frequent light trimmings will benefit you and your plant more than less-frequent, more drastic prunes. Keep these thoughts in mind and you will avoid the dreaded “Ugly Spirea”.