Meet the Goldflame

Goldflame spirea (image) in late May is chartreuse. It retains some of its spring red.
Here's how the Goldflame spirea observed for purposes of this review looked in late May. David Beaulieu

Goldflame is one of the most commonly chosen deciduous shrubs for landscaping. It's favored for its golden leaves. The official Latin name of this plant is Spiraea japonica 'Goldflame.' The latter is the cultivar name, and, as the name suggests, this is an indication of the plant's foliage color. Goldflame spireas, like the other cultivars in this group, are deciduous flowering shrubs.

Characteristics of Goldflame

These compact bushes (3 feet tall with a spread slightly bigger than that) have dark pink flowers. The blossoms occur in flattish clusters. Bloom time is early June in a zone five garden, for example. It will bloom a little earlier in warmer climates and a little later in cooler zones. But their flowers are not the trait most valued. Rather, it is the attractive golden leaves that emerge in the spring that is the real attraction.

Planting Zones, Growing Conditions

As you will readily surmise from the specific epithet of its botanical name, Spiraea japonica is indigenous to the Far East. It is suited to planting in zones four through eight. Grow the plant in full sunlight and well-drained soil. Although the plant is not a heavy feeder, it wouldn't hurt to amend the soil with compost.

Uses in Landscaping and Wildlife Considerations

Does the appearance of this bush in spring qualify it for specimen status? Some people think so, though for this purpose a better choice might be Gold Mound. Both types are suitable for foundation plantings and short hedges. These bushes are relatively good deer-resistant shrubs and fine butterfly plants.

Plant Care Tips

You can easily deadhead this low-maintenance bush by shearing it after it is done flowering. This will promote sporadic reblooming over the course of the summer. Goldflame is one of the shrubs that bloom on new wood, so do your pruning in late winter to early spring.

A Comparison Between 'Goldflame' Spirea and 'Gold Mound':

Goldflame isn't the only golden spirea cultivar. Others include 'Firelight' and 'Gold Mound.' Below are some comparisons between Goldflame and Gold Mound to help you decide which one to grow.

When Goldflame's new leaves emerge, they're red; when Gold Mound's come out, they're gold. Goldflame's earliest leaves, which started out red, turn bronze now, while the newer ones that continue to come along (at the tips of the branches) still come out red. This bush looks quite different from the more golden Gold Mound. In spring the red color of the Goldflame will be more intense.

By late June the Goldflame and Gold Mound will closely resemble each other. Although the colors of the mature leaves look similar, Gold Mound is still the slightly brighter of the two. By September, both shrubs have become greener (less golden) than they were during the spring and summer.

Both bushes will usually reach their peak fall color by mid-November. Gold Mound's hue is mainly yellow with a slight reddish overlay in places. Goldflame's color is mainly a light red. Neither of these shrubs contributes much landscape appeal through its fall foliage.

Overall, if you're seeking a shrub with bright golden foliage, Gold Mound is the favorite. The only selling point that Goldflame has is the red color of its new leaves. But if you crave a two-toned shrub, then you will appreciate the spring foliage of Goldflame.