Every gardener has heard of the plant spirea. I remember as a child having some in my mother’s garden and how I loved to pick those long branches with the delicate white flowers. The one we had was white with double flowers and my sisters and I would take the branches and make wreaths for our heads.
Spirea has come a long way since those days. First, I saw some varieties that had leaves that were more lime green and would brighten up a spot in any garden. Now there is one that is called Double Play Candy Corn that is amazing.
This spirea is not like any other that I have seen. The new leaves are orange-red in the spring and mature to a pineapple yellow before becoming chartreuse green in the summer. When fall rolls around, the colors are spectacular — showing off yellow, red, orange and purple. In between all this, in the summer the flowers that adorn the bush are a rich purple-pink. All this is on a refined, compact bush.
Spireas were out of favor for a while because they were considered invasive in certain parts of the country and some of them would spread over time, taking over the flower bed or area where they were planted. Candy Corn is not like that. It is considered sterile, non-invasive and a well-mannered shrub.
Tom Ranney, a professor at North Carolina State University who runs the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center, has amazing skills in plant breeding. He began working with breeding spireas (along with many other plants). He started working with a wild species from Korea and the popular Japanese spireas. Through several generations of crossing-pollination, he found a plant that was colorful yet produced no seed. Plus, it kept a nice small size with a pretty, rounded form.
Candy Corn spirea is a tough as nails, deciduous shrub with narrow, oval-shaped leaves. It is easy to grow, reliable and robust. It thrives best in rich humus soil but will live in different soil conditions. It needs to be in a well-drained soil location or it could develop some problems like root rot. It shows off its best color in full sun but grows in some partial shade too. Once it is established, it will take some drought conditions and it is relatively pest- and disease-free. Plus, the deer do not bother it. It also maintains its compact shape with little pruning.
This garden wonder can be used as a focal point, low-growing hedge or compact border. I have it tucked into a planting where I wanted to give some life to a dark spot and in another place I have one as a focal point.
I was given my first plant and it was very small in size. I did not know anything about this gift so I planted it near some other spireas that were showing a pretty lime green color. I assumed it was going to look similar to these since it was a chartreuse when given to me.
Well, was I mistaken. As the plant matured, it became better and better. This spirea had 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 since it only had a number. After being told it was probably Candy Corn, I went to work locating more plants. I have one grouping of three and the others are in different places where I needed color.
Planting spireas is easy since they are a hardy plant. When you plant spirea, water your plant well until it is established. After that, you can taper off watering as it is only necessary when the soil is completely dry. You can also plant it at almost any time of year as long as you do not plant it when it is extremely cold or extremely hot. It grows in USDA zones 4 to 8 and if you are in a hotter zone, you might want to give it some afternoon shade to keep the leaves looking their best.
Candy Corn is an alluring, compact plant and rarely needs pruning. However, if you want to tidy it up, you can do this in late winter. The plant blooms on new wood, so if you want to trim your plant at that time, you will not cut off the blooms. The new foliage that will appear in early March will be a bright fire-engine red. You can also deadhead the blooms as they start to fade and you might be lucky enough to get a second round of flowers.
Now, when you go to look for this plant, you need to know that there is a Double Play series. There is Double Play Red, Double Play Gold and Double Play Big Band but I would assume that you will want to seek out my favorite, Double Play Candy Corn.
The show starts in early spring when the new growth emerges bright candy apple red. As it matures, it turns pineapple yellow, and the new growth continues to emerge bright orange all season. Top it off with dark purple flowers in late spring/early summer, and you've got a display you really have to see to believe.