Facebook LinkedIn Email Pinterest Twitter Instagram YouTube Icon Navigation Search Icon Main Search Icon Video Play Icon Audio Play Icon Headphones Icon Plus Icon Minus Icon Check Icon Print Icon Note Icon Heart Icon Filled Heart Icon Single Arrow Icon Double Arrow Icon Hamburger Icon TV Icon Close Icon Sorted Hamburger/Search Icon

A Sugary-Sweet Shrub That Stays in Bounds

Fine Gardening - Issue 194
Photo: courtesy of Proven Winners

Spireas have generally lost favor over the last 20 years, due in part to their sometimes invasive nature in certain areas of the country. For this reason, they have often been thought of as the unwanted stepchildren of flowering shrubs. However, they are still grown widely in the United States because of their low maintenance, durability, and proven performance. Over 100 cultivars of Japanese spirea exist, and many are available in nurseries around North America. Several have beautiful yellow/gold foliage with reddish, pink, or orange new growth. In my mind, however, none can compare with the colorful and well-behaved Candy Corn®.

Photo: courtesy of Jason Reeves

This cultivar was developed by North Carolina State University’s Tom Ranney. He first selected it in 2012 in a field of seedlings, but plants didn’t become available for retail until 2017. In that short time it has become a best seller—and for good reason. Most notably, it does not produce seed, eliminating the concerns of spreading in areas of the United States where Japanese spireas are an invasive problem. The color show starts in early spring as wiry stems become adorned in a flush of candy-apple-red leaves. As the red leaves age, they become a vibrant golden yellow. In late spring 1-to-2-inch clusters of double purple flowers are produced on new growth, which are enjoyed by bees.

In true low-maintenance fashion, Candy Corn® grows naturally into a compact mound. However, if it gets larger than desired or needs to be tidied up, it can be sheared soon after flowering. This will spark later-season new growth, which is a pleasing rusty red. While it does best in average garden soil, it will tolerate clay as long as the soil does not stay saturated. Spirea is typically ignored by deer and rabbits, is quite drought tolerant once established, and is not troubled by diseases. Attractive enough to be used as a focal point, Candy Corn® can make an even bolder statement when planted in drifts of three, five, or more. Now that’s what I call a sweet shrub.


Candy Corn® Japanese spirea

Spiraea japonica* ‘NCSX1’

Zones: 4–8

Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; well-drained soil

Native range: Japan


*Invasive alert: Japanese spirea (Spiraea japonica)

This plant is considered invasive in GA, IN, KY, PA, TN.

Please visit invasiveplantatlas.org for more information.

Jason Reeves is the curator of the University of Tennessee Gardens, located in Jackson.

Illustration: Elara Tanguy


View Comments


Log in or create an account to post a comment.

Related Articles

The Latest

Magazine Cover

Take your passion for plants to the next level

Subscribe today and save up to 44%

"As a recently identified gardening nut I have tried all the magazines and this one is head and shoulders above the pack."


View All

We hope you’ve enjoyed your free articles. To keep reading, become a member today.

Get complete site access to decades of expert advice, regional content, and more, plus the print magazine.

Start your FREE trial