Bridal veil spiraea is a showy shrub that handles cold

Bridal veil spiraea (Spiraea prunifolia) is one of my favorite spring flowering shrubs and it will thrive when winter temperatures dip into the -30s. The most common type of these white spring flowering shrubs is usually referred to as Vanhoutte spiraea (Spiraea × vanhouttei) and it’s blooming right now. White flowers emerge before the leaves do.

This is an old-fashioned shrub. Quite often it can be found on the edge of old cemeteries or homesteads. Flowering can be so dense that patches of it are visible for long distances. This easy to grow plant makes a great deciduous hedge. Fall foliage is yellow to bronze or purple.

Bridal veil is not native, but it’s not invasive either. Plantings are usually long lived but don’t spread far from their origin. Plants dug while still dormant are easy to transplant.

Spiraeas are members of the rose family just like apples, cherries and many other common landscape ornamentals. This one is generally upright and usually four to eight feet tall. Fragrant flowers attract songbirds, butterflies and other pollinators.

Shrubs grow in full sun to partial shade. They flourish in acidic soil and tolerate drought once established. Plants aren’t heavy fertilizer users.

Pruning is a personal thing. Some folks let them sprawl. Their natural growth habit is like that of forsythia. Like forsythia, they flower on the previous year’s growth. Most spiraeas such as ‘Anthony waterer’ or ‘little princess’ bloom on the current season’s wood. These types can be pruned anytime.

Should a more formal look be more to your liking, these versatile shrubs can fit the bill. Be it a large rounded specimen plant or a tightly manicured hedge, these rose relatives work fine.

Pruning spring flowering plants should be done right after bloom. Cutting them back in the fall or winter will remove the flowers. However, after flowering this spiraea can be cut to the ground if that’s what you desire. It will still be a sea of white next year. Often renewal pruning keeps plants vigorous.

Spiraeas have few insect problems, but deer will eat them. I’ve never seen deer decimate these shrubs though. Spiraea grows and recovers quickly.

There’s a patch in my neighborhood where deer are plentiful. This place has never been browsed to the point it’s not attractive. Moderate browsing tends to make plants thicker and more vigorous.

This shrub isn’t just for outdoors either. Branches can be cut and brought inside. Flowers are great in arrangements and last a long time. They’re great for use in early spring weddings.

This hardy shrub even has medicinal uses. It contains salicylates like willows do, so herbal teas can be used in place of aspirin. Leaves, roots and flowers can be used to make tea.

One advantage of spiraeas over willows is that the concentration of salicylates is more consistent from plant to plant. Overdoses are far less likely to occur.

One thing to keep in mind though is that people allergic to aspirin are also likely to be allergic to internal use of spiraea tea. If you have any questions about herbal medicines, you should ask your medical professional.

White spiraea branch

Bridal veil spiraea growing next to a small family cemetery


Ted Manzer teaches agriculture at Northeastern High School.

About tedmanzer

I grew up in Old Town Maine and got a B.S. at the University of Maine in Plant Sciences/ minor in Botany. From there I moved to West Virginia and earned a M.S. in Agronomy at WVU. I also met my wife there. She grew up in rural WV as the daughter of tenant farmers who raised cattle and hogs. Their lifestyle at times was one of subsistence and I learned a lot from them. I've always been a foraging buff, but combining my formal botanical knowledge with their practical 'Foxfire-type' background opened up my eyes a little more. I recently retired from teaching high school agriculture after 25 years teaching with my wife. Until recently I wrote a weekly nature/foraging column for the local paper ( I also have written several Christian nature/adventure novels that can be purchased on Amazon in Kindle format. One is a five book family saga I call the 'Forgotten Virtues' series. In the first book, Never Alone (presently out of print), a young boy comes of age after his father dies in a plane crash, and he has to make it alone. The second book, Strange Courage, takes Carl from his High School graduation to his recovery from a nasty divorce. The third book, Second Chances, takes Carl from his ex-wife's death and the custody of his son to his heroic death at age 59. The fourth book, Promises Kept, depicts how his grandchildren react and adjust to his death (this one is not yet published). In the final book, Grandfather's Way, his youngest and most timid granddaughter emerges from the shadow of her overachieving family and accomplishes more in four months than most do in a lifetime. I use many foraging references with a lot of the plants I profile in these articles in those books. I also wrote a romance novel titled Virginia. It is available on Amazon and is a different type of romance from a man's perspective.
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5 Responses to Bridal veil spiraea is a showy shrub that handles cold

  1. tonytomeo says:

    That is a name I have not heard in a while. They are unpopular here because most people prefer evergreens like New Zealand tea tree. I actually like it because it looks like something from colder climates.

  2. William Bonanno says:

    Hello there! I really enjoyed this article! Do you know if it’s safe to make a tea from all types of spiraea? There’s a white flowering spiraea where I live, and I can’t figure out which type it is since all of the white flowering types look similar to me. I’d really like to try a tea! Thank you!

    • tedmanzer says:

      I know of no Spiraeas toxic in small quantities. I would suggest obeying the classic foraging rules and consuming a very small quantity of tea the first time and testing how it agrees with you. You can increase it if you have no ill effects. No sources I know of list any Spiraeas as problematic.

      • William Bonanno says:

        Thank you for your response! I’ll give it a go and start out with a few leaves. I don’t think I’ll increase it too much more than that. Next spring I will try the flower tea. I have now enjoyed several articles here, and will come back to read more!

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