How to Grow and Care for Little Princess Spirea

HomeHow ToCare GuideHow to Grow and Care for Little Princess Spirea

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The Little Princess Spirea (Spiraea japonica ‘Little Princess’) is a deciduous, flowering shrub that belongs to the Rosaceae family. This plant is native to Asia, specifically Japan, Korea, and China. The ‘Little Princess’ cultivar has been a popular landscape plant since the 1980s.

The plant is known for its attractive bright green leaves and flat-topped clusters of pink flowers that bloom in the summer. It features bright green foliage that turns shades of yellow and red in the fall. The pink flowers, which bloom in late spring to early summer, attract butterflies and other pollinators.

  • Botanical Name: Spiraea japonica ‘Little Princess’
  • Plant Type: Deciduous shrub
  • Family: Rosaceae
  • Height: 2-3 feet tall
  • Foliage: Bright green, deciduous
  • Bloom Time: Summer
  • Climate: Adaptable to a wide range of climates
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
  • Soil Requirements: Well-draining, loamy soil preferred, can adapt to clay soil
  • Hardiness Zones: USDA zones 4-9
  • Flowering: Clusters of pink flowers
  • Seasonal Features: Bright green foliage in spring and summer, attractive fall color
  • Special Features: Attracts pollinators, low maintenance, moderate drought resistance
  • Toxicity: Non-toxic to humans and pets

How to Care for Little Princess Spirea

Water

When watering “Little Princess Spirea,” it is important to water deeply and regularly when the plant is first established, ensuring the soil is moist but not soggy. Once established, water the plant when the top 2 inches of soil feel dry to the touch, typically requiring weekly watering unless there is sufficient rainfall.

During hot weather or dry spells, increase the frequency of watering to maintain evenly moist soil. It is best to water in the morning to allow the water to absorb and evaporate throughout the day. In the winter, reduce watering as the plant enters dormancy, needing minimal moisture during this period. For container-grown shrubs, pay extra attention to watering, as they tend to dry out faster than garden shrubs.

Sunlight

Sunlight plays a crucial role in the Little Princess Spirea’s growth and flowering. Ideally, this spirea thrives in full sun, requiring at least six hours of direct sunlight daily to produce its signature profusion of pink blossoms. When exposed to full sunlight, Little Princess Spirea showcases its best color and produces an abundance of blooms, enhancing its ornamental value in gardens and landscapes. While it can tolerate partial shade, insufficient light can lead to fewer blooms and a less compact shape. Therefore, planting the “Little Princess Spirea” in a location that maximizes sunlight exposure is essential for gardeners looking to showcase this plant’s full ornamental potential.

Fertilizer

Fertilizing Little Princess Spirea (Spiraea japonica ‘Little Princess’) is a straightforward process that can enhance the health and blooming of this beautiful shrub. It is generally recommended to apply a well-balanced, slow-release fertilizer in the spring. This type of fertilizer provides essential nutrients over an extended period, supporting the plant’s growth throughout the season. A balanced granular fertilizer, such as a 10-10-10 formula, is ideal. To fertilize, sprinkle the fertilizer around the root zone, avoiding direct contact with the foliage to prevent burning. Water the plant thoroughly after applying the fertilizer to help it absorb the nutrients. It’s important not to over-fertilize, as this can lead to excessive leafy growth at the expense of flowers. Typically, an annual application is sufficient for established plants, while newly planted shrubs may not require fertilization until they are well-established.

Soil

The Little Princess Spirea (Spiraea japonica ‘Little Princess’) thrives in well-draining soil and can adapt to a variety of soil conditions. While it prefers rich, loamy soil, it can also grow in clay soil. The soil pH should be slightly acidic to neutral. It is important to avoid wet, poorly drained soils as the plant is susceptible to root rot. Adding organic matter to the soil can help improve drainage and aeration, ensuring the soil remains moist but not soggy. For optimal growth, water the plant regularly, especially during hot and dry periods.

Prune

The best time to prune is in late winter or early spring before new growth begins. Start by removing any dead or damaged branches, and cutting them back to the base. Next, trim the shrub to shape it, cutting back up to one-third of the plant’s overall size. Make clean cuts just above a leaf node to encourage new growth. For rejuvenation, you can cut the entire shrub down to the ground, and it will grow back with fresh, vigorous growth. Regular pruning not only keeps the plant looking tidy but also enhances blooming by stimulating new growth, ensuring a lush display of pink flowers throughout the summer. Collect and dispose of all pruned material. Cleaning up helps prevent disease and pests from taking hold of the debris.

Temperature & Humidity

The ideal temperature range for Little Princess Spirea is between 10 and 20 degrees Celsius. The plant is cold and hardy to temperatures as low as -30 degrees Celsius. Tolerates summer temperatures but prefers some shade in extremely hot regions to avoid stress.

Little Princess Spirea is quite adaptable to a range of humidity levels, but it does best with moderate moisture. The ideal humidity condition for this plant is around 50%. Too much humidity combined with poor air circulation can lead to fungal diseases. It handles heat and humidity relatively well but may need more consistent watering in hot, dry climates.

Container

When selecting a container for the Little Princess Spirea, opt for one that is both aesthetically pleasing and practical, with a diameter of at least 12 inches to accommodate its mature size and root system. Opt for a container that has good drainage to prevent waterlogging, as the plant prefers well-drained soil. Additionally, ensure the container is made of a durable material that can withstand outdoor conditions, such as ceramic, plastic, or wood.

Potting

Begin by placing a layer of gravel or small stones at the bottom of the pot to enhance drainage. Fill the pot partially with the potting mix, then gently remove the spirea from its current container, being careful to minimize root disturbance. Place the plant in the new pot, ensuring the root ball is centered and at the same soil depth as before. Fill in around the roots with the remaining potting mix, pressing it down lightly to eliminate air pockets. Water thoroughly to settle the soil, and place the pot in a location with full to partial sunlight.

Repotting

Repotting should be done every 2-3 years or when the plant outgrows its current container, ideally in early spring before new growth begins. For repotting, gently remove the plant from its current pot, loosen the roots, and place it in a larger container with fresh potting mix. Water well and place the pot in a location with bright, indirect light. Regular watering and occasional feeding with a balanced fertilizer will help the plant grow healthily.

Overwintering

In colder climates, protect the plant by mulching around the base to insulate the roots. Container-grown plants can be moved to a sheltered location.

When and How to Plant Little Princess Spirea

When to Plant

Spring or Fall: These are the best times to plant Little Princess Spirea. Planting during these seasons allows the shrub to establish its root system before facing extreme temperatures.

How to Plant

  1. Site Selection: Choose a location that receives full sun to partial shade. Ensure the soil is well-draining.
  2. Soil Preparation: Little Princess Spirea prefers moist, fertile, and slightly acidic to neutral soil. Amend heavy clay or sandy soil with organic matter like compost to improve its structure and fertility.
  3. Dig the hole: Dig a hole twice as wide and just as deep as the root ball.
  4. Planting: Gently remove the shrub from its container, teasing apart any circling roots. Place the plant in the center of the hole, ensuring it sits at the same depth as it was in the container.
  5. Backfilling and watering: Backfill the hole with soil, gently firming it around the roots to remove air pockets. Water the newly planted shrub thoroughly to settle the soil around the roots.
  6. Mulching: Apply a 2-3 inch layer of organic mulch (e.g., wood chips, shredded bark) around the base of the plant.

Types of Little Princess Spirea

When choosing a Little Princess Spirea, consider factors such as mature size, flower color, and foliage color to select the variety that best suits your garden design preferences and growing conditions.

  • Spiraea japonica ‘Little Princess” is the most common type, known for its compact size and pink flowers. It typically grows to a height of around 2 to 3 feet and has a mounded growth habit.
  • Spiraea japonica ‘Gold Mound’ features golden foliage that contrasts beautifully with its pink flowers. It tends to be slightly smaller than ‘Little Princess,’ reaching heights of around 1 to 2 feet.
  • Spiraea japonica ‘Magic Carpet’ is prized for its colorful foliage, which emerges red in spring, matures to gold, and then turns shades of orange and red in the fall. It produces pink flowers in early summer and typically grows to a height of 1 to 2 feet.
  • Spiraea japonica ‘Crispa’ also known as Curly Spirea, this variety is valued for its unique foliage, which is twisted and curled. It produces pink flowers in late spring to early summer and typically grows to a height of 2 to 3 feet.
  • Spiraea japonica ‘Neon Flash’ is similar to ‘Little Princess’ but has brighter pink flowers and a slightly larger size, reaching heights of around 3 feet.

How to Propagate Little Princess Spirea

Propagating Little Princess Spirea can be done through several methods, including softwood cuttings, hardwood cuttings, and ground layering. Three propagation methods can get you the plants you want

Softwood Cuttings

  1. Timing: Take softwood cuttings in late spring or early summer.
  2. Cuttings: Choose healthy, disease-free plant material and take 4-6 inch cuttings from the tips of new growth.
  3. Preparation: Remove the bottom leaves and dip the cut end into the rooting hormone.
  4. Planting: Place the cuttings in a well-drained potting mix and water thoroughly.
  5. Environment: Keep the pot in a warm location out of direct sunlight and maintain moisture in the potting mix.
  6. Rooting: After approximately four weeks, rooting is indicated by healthy new foliage.

Hardwood Cuttings

  1. Timing: Take hardwood cuttings in late autumn or early winter when the plant is dormant.
  2. Cuttings: Cut mature stems 10-12 inches long, trimming the top just above a leaf node and the bottom straight across below a leaf node.
  3. Planting: Dig holes about 4-6 inches deep and place the cuttings in the holes with the angled end up.
  4. Environment: Fill the holes with soil, firm in place, and water well. Keep the soil moist.
  5. Rooting: After cuttings show healthy new growth in spring, they can be planted into pots or a permanent location.

Ground Layering

  1. Timing: Best done in mid-spring when the plant is actively growing.
  2. Preparation: Choose a long, flexible stem and remove the leaves from the section to be covered.
  3. Layering: Gently scrape away the outer bark in a few spots and lay the stem on the ground.
  4. Securing: Cover the scraped sections with soil and secure the stem in place.
  5. Rooting: New roots will develop while the stem remains attached to the mother plant.

How to Get Little Princess Spirea to Bloom

Ensure the plant receives adequate sunlight and water. Apply a balanced fertilizer in the spring and prune lightly to encourage new growth and blooming.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

Little Princess Spirea is generally resilient against pests and diseases, aphids, spider mites, and powdery mildew can still pose a threat. Monitoring your plants regularly is key, catching infestations or infections early makes control easier.

For aphids and spider mites, a strong blast of water insecticidal soap or neem oil can be effective against these pests without harming beneficial insects. Powdery mildew can be treated with fungicidal sprays containing sulfur, potassium bicarbonate, or other fungicides labeled for powdery mildew control. Pruning is necessary for increased airflow around the plant, which can also help prevent powdery mildew.

Always follow label instructions when using any pesticide, and consider cultural practices such as proper watering and spacing to promote plant health and reduce stress.

FAQs

How Big Does a Little Princess Spirea Get?

Little Princess Spirea typically grows to a height and width of 1 to 2 feet, making it ideal for small gardens and borders.

Is Spirea Little Princess Evergreen?

No, Little Princess Spirea is a deciduous shrub, meaning it loses its leaves in the fall.

How Long Does Spirea Last?

With proper care, Little Princess Spirea can live for many years, often up to 20 years or more.

Why is My Little Princess Spirea Not Blooming?

Lack of blooms can be due to insufficient sunlight, improper pruning, over-fertilization, or poor soil conditions. Ensure the plant receives full sun and prune correctly after flowering.

Will Spirea Bloom Twice?

Some spirea varieties can have a secondary bloom in late summer if pruned after the first bloom. However, Little Princess Spirea typically blooms once per season.

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