Spireas are some of the most popular of all deciduous landscape shrubs, and no variety is more useful or prized than 'Goldflame' (Spiraea japonica 'Goldflame'). A flowering shrub like other members of the spirea group, 'Goldflame' is particularly beloved for its yellow-gold foliage that offers a contrast to the predominant greens found in most landscape shrubs.
'Goldflame' is a compact shrub that grows to about 4 feet tall with a similar spread. It is known for the changing colors of its foliage, which begin as bronze-red when they emerge in the spring, then transition to bright yellow-green in summer, and finally turn an attractive copper-orange in fall. The leaves are oval and sharply toothed, about 3 inches long. Clusters of rose-pink flowers appear in late spring and early summer, and the shrub sometimes reblooms later in the season. This is an easy-care plant that has a good tolerance for clay soils, urban pollution, and drought conditions.
Spiraea japonica is native to Japan, China, and Korea. It was first brought to North America about 1870 as an imported landscape plant, but quickly adapted to conditions and naturalized itself across much of the U.S. east of the Mississippi River and southern Canada. It is considered invasive over large areas of the mountainous regions of the eastern U.S.
This species readily forms different varieties, and 'Goldflame' is one of several cultivars that are widely used in landscape applications. 'Goldflame' has close similarities to another popular cultivar, known as 'Gold Mound.' Choosing between the two depends on understanding the difference between the two plants:
- 'Goldflame' has leaves that emerge in the spring as red-bronze in color; 'Gold Mound' has leaves that are yellow-gold from their first emergence. 'Goldflame' offers changing foliage colors, while 'Gold Mound' maintains the same hue throughout the growing season, up until fall.
- 'Goldflame' is slightly less intense in its yellow-gold hue than 'Gold Mound' in midsummer.
- 'Goldflame' has fall foliage that is predominantly copper-orange, while 'Gold Mound' has fall foliage that is mostly yellow with a slight reddish overlay in places.
'Goldflame' works well as a low hedge or as a woodland border along paths and walkways, where its spring flowering is very attractive. It is often massed or grouped in shrub border plantings, and also works well as a foundation plant. These shrubs are fairly resistant to damage from deer, and also are attractive to butterflies and other pollinators.
Goldflame spirea is well suited to growing nearly anywhere in USDA hardiness zones 4 to 8. It prefers full sunlight, but easily tolerates partial shade. It tolerates a wide range of soils but thrives best in well-drained, loamy soil. Avoid planting in areas where its roots will soak in standing water.
If practical, lighting shear the plants to remove spent flowers, which will keep the plant vigorous. This deadheading may promote sporadic reblooming over the course of the summer. The shrub flowers on new wood, so any shaping pruning you do should be done in late winter or early spring, when necessary.
Although the plant is not a heavy feeder, it doesn't hurt to amend the soil with compost. These plants are aggressive self-seeders and also sucker freely, so watch carefull8y to prevent them from escaping the garden and naturalizing into the wild.
Goldflame—along with other varieties of Japanese spirea—are easy-care shrubs with few life-threatening pests and disease problems.
As part of the Rosaceae family of plants, the various Spiraea species can be somewhat susceptible to some of the same problems that affect other members of the rose family, such as leaf spots, fire blight, powdery mildew, root rot, aphids, leafrollers, and scale insects. It is rare, however, for these problems to kill a spirea.