If you are looking to add a shrub that has dramatic color, you need to look at Double Play Candy Corn Spirea. This spirea is not like the others I have seen. The new leaves are orange-red in spring and ripen to pineapple yellow before turning chartreuse green in summer. When fall arrives, the colors are spectacular, showing yellow, red, orange and purple. Between all of this, in summer the flowers that adorn the bush are a rich purple pink. All this on a refined and compact bush.
Spireas were out of favor for a time as they were considered invasive in some parts of the country and some of them would spread over time, invading the flower bed or area where they were planted. Candy Corn has become an overnight bestseller for several reasons, one of them being that it is considered a sterile, non-invasive, and well-behaved shrub. Tom Ranney, a professor at North Carolina State University who directs the Mountain Horticulture Research and Extension Center, has incredible plant breeding skills. He began to work with the selection of spirea (as well as many other plants). He started working with a wild species from Korea and the popular Japanese spirea. After several generations of cross-pollination, he found a plant that was colorful but did not produce seeds. In addition, he kept a nice small size with a nice rounded shape.
Candy Corn Spirea is a nail-hard deciduous shrub with narrow, oval-shaped leaves. It is easy to grow, reliable and hardy. It thrives best in humus-rich soil, but will live in different soil conditions. It needs to be in well-drained soil or it could develop issues like root rot. It shows its best color in full sun but also grows in partial shade. Once established, it will take drought conditions and is relatively free of pests and diseases. In addition, deer do not bother him. It also maintains its compact shape with little pruning.
This garden wonder can be used as a focal point, low hedge or compact border. I used it as a focal point in an area and hid it in a planting where I wanted to bring some life to a dark spot.
I was given my first plant and it was very small in size. I didn’t know anything about this gift so I planted it near other spirea which showed a nice lime green color. I assumed it was going to look like these since it was a chartreuse when I was given it. Well, I was wrong. As the plant matured, it got better and better. This spirea had some interesting colors. I was so taken with this plant that I wanted to plant more of this shrub. First I had to go to work to find the name of my gift plant because it only had a number. After I was told it was probably Candy Corn, I went to work finding more plants. I have a group of three and the others are in different places where I needed color.
Planting spirea is easy because it is a hardy plant. When planting spiraea, water your plant well until it is established. After that, you can decrease watering as it is only needed when the soil is completely dry. You can also plant it almost any time of the year as long as you don’t plant it when it’s extremely cold or extremely hot. It grows in USDA zones 4 through 8 and if you are in a warmer zone you may want to give it some afternoon shade to keep the leaves looking their best.
Candy Corn is an attractive, compact plant that rarely needs pruning. However, if you wish to put it away, you can do so at the end of winter. The plant blooms on new wood, so if you want to prune your plant then, you won’t be cutting the flowers. The new foliage that will appear in early March will be a bright fire engine red. You can also cut the flowers when they start to fade and you may be lucky to get a second set of flowers.
Now when you go for this plant, you should know that there is a Double Play series. There’s Double Play Red, Double Play Gold, Double Play Big Band but I guess you’ll want to look for my favorite, Double Play Candy Corn.
So, as we enter the festive season, now is the time to ask your favorite garden center owner to make sure they get Candy Corn Spirea. Nurseries are now starting to line up their spring plants, so make sure they have this plant on their list to buy for their store. If they don’t know it, read them the Proven Winners tag which says it all. The show begins in early spring when new growth emerges a brilliant candy apple red. As it matures, it turns pineapple yellow and new growth continues to emerge bright orange all season long. Top it off with deep purple blooms in late spring/early summer, and you’ve got a display you really have to see to believe.
Betty Montgomery is a master gardener and author of “Hydrangeas: How To Grow, Cultivate & Enjoy” and “A Four-Season Southern Garden.” She can be reached at [email protected]