How to Grow and Care for Goldflame Spirea

Goldflame spirea plant with orange and yellow leaves in sunlight closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Spireas are some of the most popular deciduous landscape shrubs, including the attractive Goldflame spirea (Spiraea japonica 'Goldflame'). This compact flowering shrub is particularly beloved for its colorful foliage that offers contrast to the basic greens predominantly found in most landscape shrubs. Its oval leaves begin as a bronze-red color when they emerge in the spring and then transition to a bright yellow-green in the summer before finally turning an attractive copper-orange in the fall before dropping from the plant for winter. Clusters of pink flowers appear in the early summer, and the shrub sometimes blooms again later in the summer. Goldflame spirea has a moderate to fast growth rate and should be planted in the spring or fall. 

Common Name Goldflame spirea
Botanical Name Spiraea japonica 'Goldflame'
Family Rosaceae
Plant Type Shrub
Mature Size 3–4 ft. tall, 3–4 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Full, partial
Soil Type Loamy, well-drained
Soil pH Acidic, neutral
Bloom Time Summer
Flower Color Pink
Hardiness Zones 4–8 (USDA)
Native Area Cultivar, no native range

Goldflame Spirea Care

Goldflame spirea works well as a specimen planting or grouped as a low hedge or walkway border. It typically is quite easy to grow, tolerating a range of conditions. And it doesn’t have any major pest or disease problems. While it tends to attract butterflies and other pollinators, garden pests such as deer usually ignore it. 

You won’t have much maintenance to do to keep this shrub looking its best. Simply feed it annually, and water it whenever the soil begins to dry out due to a lack of rainfall. Pruning should be done at least annually. But because these are fairly small shrubs, it’s usually not a major task. 

Goldflame spirea plant in middle of pebbles with red, orange, yellow and green leaves in sunlight

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Goldflame spirea plant with yellow-green leaves on edge of tiled floor

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Goldflame spirea plant stems topped with red and yellow leaves closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Goldflame spirea plant with yellow leaves on edge of stone wall in sunlight

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Light

This shrub prefers to grow in full sun, meaning at least six hours of direct sunlight on most days. Too little light can lead to poor foliage color and reduced flowering.

Soil

Goldflame spirea can tolerate a wide range of soil types, including clay soil. But it thrives in a rich loamy soil with good drainage. The shrub likes a slightly acidic to neutral soil pH between 5.5 and 7.5 and can tolerate a slightly alkaline soil.

Water

Water new shrubs regularly to maintain lightly moist (but not soggy) soil. Mature spirea shrubs have some drought tolerance but still prefer a moderate amount of soil moisture. So water whenever the soil becomes dry. But don’t allow the roots to sit in pooled water, as this can lead to root rot.

Temperature and Humidity

Among the spirea shrub varieties, Goldflame spirea is known for its good heat tolerance. In general, it is quite hardy to the temperature swings within its growing zones. And typically humidity is not an issue unless high humidity causes the soil to remain soggy.

Fertilizer

This shrub is not a heavy feeder. Apply a slow-release, general-purpose garden fertilizer in the early spring as new growth is just beginning. For the amount to use, follow the product label instructions. It also can be beneficial to mix some compost into the soil around the shrub.

Types of Japanese Spirea

Besides Goldflame spirea, there are several other attractive species and varieties of Japanese spirea, including:

  • S. japonica 'Magic Carpet': This variety has slightly more cold tolerance than Goldflame, and its leaves transition from red to gold throughout the growing season. 
  • S. japonica 'Little Princess': This shrub has a dense, low growth habit, and its bright green leaves turn bronze in the fall. 
  • S. japonica 'Anthony Waterer': This popular variety features frilly clusters of bright pink flowers, and its foliage goes from blue-green to red in the fall.
  • S. japonica 'Double Play Doozie’: This variety flowers continually from spring to fall with purple-red blooms. 
  • S. japonica 'Double Play Big Bang': The foliage on this variety starts bright orange before turning golden for the summer and then back to an orange-gold for the fall.

Pruning

Goldflame spirea does not need excessive pruning. The plant blooms on new wood, so in the late winter or early spring while the shrub is still dormant, prune off any dead or damaged branches. Also, clean up the shrub’s shape if necessary by taking out any unsightly or weak stems. Then, in the summer, remove the spent blooms and lightly prune the stems once flowering is complete. This can encourage a second bloom for the season. 

Propagating Goldflame Spirea

The shrub can be easily propagated by softwood cuttings, which is done in the late spring.

  1. Cut a branch tip 4 inches in length with a sharp knife or pruners. Strip the leaves from the lower third of the cutting. Dip the cut end in rooting hormone.
  2. Fill a 4-inch pot with potting mix and water until evenly moist but not soggy. Poke a hole in the soil that is deep enough to fit the leafless portion of the cutting, using a pencil or a stick. Insert the cutting into the soil and press it down.
  3. Keep the pot in a bright location with indirect light, away from hot sun. Water it regularly so the soil is moist at all times. New leaf growth is a sign that new roots have begun to form, at which point you can transplant the spirea in garden soil.

Growing from Seed

It is not recommended to grow Goldflame spirea from seed, as it is a cultivar and won't produce a plant true to type.

Potting and Repotting

This spirea cultivar is too wide for container growing, For a potted plant, choose Gold Mound spirea, which offers similarly attractive foliage but has a more compact growth habit.

Overwintering

Goldflame spirea is hardy to USDA zone 4 and does not need any winter protection.

How to Get Goldflame Spirea to Bloom

Goldflame spirea can grow in partial sun but if it is not blooming, it could be that it is in a location that is too shady. The other possibility is that you have over-fertilized it with nitrogen, and as a result, there is mainly foliage but no or few flowers. You can fix this by cutting back on the fertilizer. Or, when you fertilizer it before the next growing season, use a fertilizer high in phosphorus.

FAQ
  • Is spirea a native plant?

    Goldflame spirea is a cultivar of Japanese spirea, which is not native to the United States. In fact, because it reseeds itself freely, it is considered invasive in many states. Native alternatives to introduced spirea species are white meadowsweet (Spirea alba) and steeplebush (Spirea tomentosa).

  • What's the difference between Goldflame spirea and Gold Mound spirea?

    Both are similar cultivars of Japanese spirea with golden foliage but Gold Mound spirea is more compact, reaching only 2 to 3 feet in height.

  • Do spireas loose their leaves in winter?

    Spireas are deciduous but hardy shrubs. In the fall, the foliage turns coppery orange before dropping off.