Spiraea japonica ‘Goldflame’ is a deciduous flowering shrub which also packs a punch with its golden foliage. It is a steady grower, reaching a good height of not more than a 1 metre with slightly less spread. Some have reported a larger growth rate. For most it will be less than a metre. In spite of its delicate appearance, it is totally hardy, though new shoots may get hit back with late spring frosts.
It is sometimes known incorrectly as Spiraea bumalda 'Goldflame.
Growth starts somewhat upright allowing the shrub to develop into an upturned conical - but slightly spreading shape. The foliage is not dense so this shrub can be easily under-planted with low growing perennials or small spring flowering bulbs.
Spiraea japonica ‘Goldflame’ admirably lives up to its name, for its foliage is rarely without colour during the spring, summer and early autumn months. The first foliage shoots to emerge in the spring are red flames emanating from bare branches and twigs, soon turning colour into deepest orange hues, and thereafter to rich gold as it breaks into full leaf.
As if that is not enough to get you interested, it also has yellow splashed orange shades in the autumn. (Other than the winter, the Gold Flame Spiraea is a shrub for all seasons.)
At the climax of this first foliage colour, the tight terminal flower but clusters start to put in an appearance – not to be outdone by the preceding dazzle of leaves. The flowers start bright deep pink in early summer, opening classical pink; crowning the framework of gold on which they sit somewhat aloft.
Not for nothing was this particular Spiraea awarded the Royal Horticultural Society’s AGM (Award of Garden Merit) for it was heralded into the UK with glowing accounts from its origins in Holland where the plant breeders, and high scores from the continental judges throughout its long season of interest were not to be ignored.
This Spiraea is one of the few that can be planted in light dappled shade as well as full sun which seem to soon bleach the foliage in a hot summer. Plant in any soil but preferably one that retains moisture but not permanently sodden. It’s natural habitat is edges of woodland scrub and river banks.
Water well in at the planting stage and ensure that you backfill your planting hole with fine soil which will help the root system to contact with the surrounding soil. A few weeks after planting, a weak feed with any proprietary fertiliser will get it off to a god start. It is a good idea to under-plant with low growing subjects such as Ajuga Bugle to keep the roots cool. This might entail a little additional feeding in early spring in particular.
You will probably be planting a shrub which has been container grown at the nursery, with a regular feeding and watering regime. However, once established in the garden, it will rarely need supplemental feeding, though will always welcome an organic mulch. The mulch is a good idea to ensure that the root system does not get exposed to the sun as the soil in your original planting hole area subsides. It resents drying out and will repay you with withered leaves if you allow it to do so.
If you can find a planting spot where the shrub will be back-lit by sun during the day – the initial flame foliage will look stunning.
Once established, Spiraea japonica ‘Goldflame’ generally allows you to relax and simply enjoy. Trim off the faded flowers, and you will probably be rewarded by an additional flush. If not, then certainly a few more bright orange gold new leaf growth. If you care about wildlife, then leave the dead flowers/seed heads for a winter feast for small birds or a hiding spot for beneficial over-wintering insects.
After the first flush of foliage has faded a little, I normally like to cut back some of the older branches and allow new brightly coloured foliage to appear – expanding the foliage ‘ooh factor’ to extend well into the summer.
You will have seen above that this shrub has quite a few periods of interest. This makes it an ideal patio pot subject. The most important thing is to keep the pot moist and NOT dry out. Shield the pot from hot sun.
Don’t let it dry out, nor ever flood it.
Aphids seem to pass this shrub by. It can however be subjected to an attack of powdery mildew. Treat with a fungicide at first signs, and cut back the affected branches. They will soon shoot out again – spray them ‘before’ the event this time!
Pruning your Goldflame. Snip off any branches that annoy you at any time, or for more detailed method have a look at the