When planted right and in the right spot Itea, commonly called Virginia Sweetspire, are exceptionally easy to grow.

Here's a breakdown of what you need to know regarding planting Itea shrubs...


Soil

Itea will grow in most any average moist to wet soil. They grow best in humusy, consistently moist soils in full sun or shade, and will even thrive in boggy conditions. When grown on dry sites, plants will require some irrigation during prolonged periods of dry weather, especially during the summer months.


How To Test Soil Drainage  If you are uncertain about soil drainage in the area you intend to plant your Itea, it's well worth taking the time to test the drainage before planting. To test soil drainage, dig a hole 12" wide by 12" deep in the planting area. Fill the hole with water and let it drain. Then, after it drains, fill it with water again, but this time clock how long it takes to drain. In well-drained soil the water level will go down at a rate of about 1 inch an hour. A faster rate, such as in loose, sandy soil, may signal potentially dry site conditions. A slower rate indicates poor draining soil, which Itea don't mind. 


Soil pH
Itea grow well in a wide range of soil pH between 5.5 to 7.0 on the pH scale. Most average garden soils fall between a pH range of 6.0 to 7.0. 


How To Test Soil pH  Soil pH is a measurement of the alkalinity or acidity of soil and is measured on a scale of 1-14, with 7 as the neutral mark. Any measurement below 7 indicates acid soil conditions, and anything above 7 indicates alkaline. If you're unsure about the pH of your soil, and whether or not it's suitable for growing Itea, it's a good idea to test the soil pH in the planting area. You can quickly test soil pH with an inexpensive soil pH tester probe. To raise the pH (make more alkaline) you can add pelletized limestone to the soil. To lower the pH (make more acid) you can apply Soil SulfurAluminum Sulfate, or Chelated Iron. Adding organic compost to the soil or using compost as mulch can also help to increase acidity and maintain acid soil conditions.




Light Needs

Itea can be grown in full sun or shade. That said, a minimum of 4 to 5 hours of  sunlight is recommended for best foliage density and flowering.



Planting Itea Shrubs In The Landscape

(Scroll down to see planting instructions for containers and pots)


Step 1

Start by digging your planting hole at least two to three times as wide and no deeper than the rootball of your Itea shrub. The wider the hole the better. Place native soil removed from planting hole around the perimeter of the hole, in a wheel barrow, or on a tarp.


Step 2

Depending on the type, fertility and porosity of the soil in the planting area you might want to mix in a soil amendment to the native soil removed from the planting hole. When planting Itea in dense clay or poor quality soil it is beneficial to thoroughly mix in some good organic matter such as composted cow manure, mushroom compost, and/or a good planting mix at a 25% ratio with the soil removed from the planting hole. When planting in very sandy or quick-draining soil, mix in some top soil, peat moss and/or compost to enhance moisture retention. When planting in fertile, loamy, well-drained moist soil there is no need for adding a soil amendment.


Step 3

To remove your Itea from the container it was growing in, firmly grasp the base of the plant and very gently try to lift and remove it from its container. If the rootball is stuck in the container either cut the container away or place the plant on it's side and gently pound on the side of the container to loosen the rootball. After having removed the plant from the container, gently loosen some feeder roots around the surface of the rootball. If root bound, you can spray the sides and bottom of the root ball with a stream of water from a garden hose. This usually helps to wash away some soil from the exterior of the root ball making it easier to loosen roots.


Step 4
If you are planting in well-drained soil set your Itea shrub in the planting hole so that the top edge of the rootball is at ground level. If necessary, add some backfill soil mixture to the bottom of the hole to achieve proper planting height. 




Step 5

After setting your Itea shrub in the planting hole, use one hand to hold the plant straight and your other hand to begin back-filling your soil mixture around the root ball, tamping as you go to remove air pockets. When you have filled the hole to the halfway point you can soak the soil. Then continue back-filling to the top edge of the root ball.


Step 6 (Optional)

When planting your Itea in a site far away from a water source you can use remaining soil mixture to build a water retaining berm (catch basin) that is several inches high around the outside perimeter of the planting hole. This basin will help to collect water from rainfall and irrigation often reducing the need for hand-watering. The berm can be removed after a growing season or whe the plant has established itself.


Step 7

Next, deeply water the planting area, including the root ball, to a depth equal to the height of the root ball. For an extra boost, you can water your newly planted Itea with a solution of Root Stimulator, which stimulates early root formation and stronger root development. Root Stimulator reduces plant shock and promotes greener, more vigorous plants.


Step 8

To conserve moisture and to suppress weed growth, apply a 1 to 2" layer of aged, shredded or chipped wood mulch or pine straw around the planting area. Avoid using freshly chipped or shredded wood for mulch until it has cured in a pile for at least 6 months, a year is better. Also avoid placing or piling mulch directly against the base of your plant as this could cause the bark to rot.




Planting An Itea Shrub In A Container


Itea shrubs growing in pots appreciate a moist, but well-drained soil. We recommend a container with a drainage hole(s) and using a quality potting soil or potting mix, or a 50/50 combination thereof for planting. 

Choose a container with a drainage hole(s) at the bottom and one that is large enough to allow for 2 to 3 years of growth before shifting up to a larger size container. This might mean your planting pot would be 6-12 inches or more in width than the root ball of your plant. If you intend on planting other types of plants in the same pot a larger container may be needed.

Container color will matter as well. Not only will you want to pick a color of container that goes well with the foliage and bark colors of your Dogwood shrub, you'll also want to pick a container that matches the style of your home or other structures and other plants in the surrounding environment. 

Many nursery & garden centers offer a wide variety of containers to choose from. Before heading out to buy a container take pictures of your home and the surrounding environment. Doing so will help you to choose just the right color and style.


Container Planting Instructions


Step 1

Before filling your container with the soil mix, we recommend lining the bottom with shade cloth or a porous landscape fabric. This will keep the drain holes from becoming stopped up with soil. Gravel or rocks don't seem to work as well as a fabric because roots can grow around them and eventually clog the drainage hole.


Step 2

To remove your Itea from the container it was growing in, firmly grasp the base of the plant and very gently try to lift and remove it from its container. If the rootball is stuck in the container either cut the container away or place the plant on it's side and gently pound on the side of the container to loosen the rootball. After having removed the plant from the container, gently loosen some feeder roots around the surface of the rootball. If root bound, you can spray the sides and bottom of the root ball with a stream of water from a garden hose. This usually helps to wash away some soil from the exterior of the root ball making it easier to loosen roots.


Step 3

Pour a small amount of your soil mixture in the bottom of the container. Set your plant in the container and make necessary adjustments by adding or removing some soil so that the top edge of the root ball will sit approximately 1 to 1.5 inches below the rim of the container.




Step 4
Backfill with your soil mixture around the root ball, tamping lightly as you go, until the level of potting soil is even with the top edge of root ball.


Step 5
Water thoroughly until water starts to drain from the holes in the bottom of the container. Add more soil mixture if settling occurs during watering.


Step 6 (Optional)
Apply a 1/2" layer of wood chips or sphagnum moss to soil surface to help conserve moisture. Stone mulch can also be used.



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Happy Planting!

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