Itea virginica ‘Henry’s Garnet’

“A shrub native to the swamps and low lying wet woods of New Jersey and Pennsylvania.”

Yes please, I’ll take three. Some times it is that simple.

The brief description above is describing Itea virginica (Virginia Sweetspire) ‘Henry’s Garnet (and I’m sure it is a good description of other shrubs, but I digress):  

This deciduous shrub fits my growing conditions perfectly and when that happens, I bow at the altar of said shrub. Some more details on my buddy:

  • Survives zone 5-9
  • Prefers full sun to partial shade – I can vouch that it works well in both 
  • Reaches a maximum height of about 4′ and a spread of about 6′
  • Prefers wet soil but will work in soil with average moisture
  • For me, it has bloomed from the end of May until the middle to end of June
  • The blooms are white, 3-6 ” cylindrical racemes that allegedly are fragrant but I’ve yet to notice that
  • The foliage is a dark green that is a bit slow to leaf out in spring so no need to panic
  • The fall color is fantastical and the reason for the cultivar name
  • This cultivar was discovered at Swarthmore College in the early 80’s most likely while the founder was listening to Duran Duran on his Walkman (OK, I made that last part up.)

Some personal photos I’ve taken over the past two years:

An explosion of bloom, taken about a week ago:


A closer shot of the bottle brush like blooms:

The foliage starting to change color in late Summer:

I like the combination of the Itea’s fall foliage color with yellow or chartreuse foliage. That is Acorus Gramineus ‘Oborozuki’ (Variegated Sweet Flag) in the photo below:     

But most importantly, the amazing fall foliage color (taken in late November):

I have three of these shrubs and each has been provided with ample room to sucker and form colonies at their will. I won’t prune them a bit.

If you do not have the room for these, there is a dwarf version ‘Little Henry’ that is easily available. I’m thinking about test driving one of them myself.


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14 thoughts on “Itea virginica ‘Henry’s Garnet’

  1. Patsi

    Have Sweetspire Itea ‘Virginica Little Henry’
    I’d say there’s no difference. It’s about 3 feet tall right now but it dosen’t get as much sun as yours. Didn’t realize it was native.

  2. Gatsbys Gardens

    I have little Henry and for many years it didn’t bloom. I fed it a systemic last year and it bloomed a litte. This year I found out it likes acidic soil so I fed it an acidic fertilizer plus the systemic, voila tons on blooms. I was just about ready to give up on it.


  3. Dar

    I do tell, every stop and read here, is a true education. Thank you so much for your detailed description of each plant. I love stopping in and love your visits as well.

  4. Generic Viagra

    This is a beautiful plant in order to adorn our garden, that’s perfect because I’ve also heard that this plant is medicinal, so I want to know if that’s truth.

  5. Gloria (The Little Red House with the White Porch)

    Greetings, John! I was just watching a PBS garden show, and they talked about Henry’s Garnet. I said I MUST get this for my property in the Spring! I love how they said it is the vibrant red in the Fall, for weeks. So I ‘googled’ it, to read up on it, and your blog showed up! I am from NY and a blogger too, and was happy to see you are in NJ, so however your plants will be, mine will be similar since we are probably in the same zone, no? Anyway, I am your newest Follower and I look forward to your future posts and, when I get time, I will explore your older posts. Nice meeting you!

  6. Anonymous

    I got the ‘dwarf’ Version of Henry last year and it is full of blooms, but I don’t smell any fragrance at all, which is one of the reasons I got it. Does this develop fragrance with age?

  7. VW

    Nice post. I just bought ‘Little Henry’ and wanted to hear what other gardeners are saying about it. I’m excited for the fall color.

  8. Anonymous

    I have had my Little Henry’s (6 of them) in ground for 3 years now, and they do not seem to grow any. I keep them very moist, and they are in full sun. Anyone know how I can jump start them??? They are healthy looking and are suppose to get 5 feet tall but are still about 1 foot tall….. Any advice is certainly welcome…

  9. Anonymous

    Help!!! My Little Henry is dying one branch at a time!! I noticed about 7 to 10 days ago (not really sure about the timing) that the leaves on one of the branches were curling up and dying. Now I have discovered that 3 more are doing the same. I love this shrub, and I’d like to save it if I can. I have had it for about 4 or 5 years and have never had a problem. Any advice?

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