June can be a slow month in the garden while waiting for the roses to bloom. The spring flowering shrubs are spent, all but the latest blooming peonies have shed their petals, and the colorful spring bulbs have turned into tan stalks with a few green leaves near the ground. What better time to enjoy Itea “Little Henry” (Virginia Sweetspire) with its long-lasting white blooms and its shapely apple-green leaves.
Itea “Little Henry” is one of the Proven Winners introductions that offers hardiness, adaptability, sweet-smelling summer flowers, and magnificent red fall foliage all in a modestly sized package. Its mature height is approximately 36″ (91 cm), and its mature width is approximately 30″-36″ (76-91 cm). The habit is mostly upright, with nice side branching that gives it a somewhat mounded appearance. Other than the occasional sucker, it requires no pruning. “Little Henry” is perfectly suited for a mixed border, a shrub grouping, or a low hedge.
I have two of these delightful shrubs growing in exceptionally heavy clay. They are exposed to strong westerly winds and receive full sun only in the morning. The first three years they struggled a bit, with a fair amount of top dieback after the winter; but as the summers wore on, they recovered nicely. Now, in their fourth year, they are truly spectacular. The plants are covered with blooms and are clearly thriving. In fall, they will turn their predictably stunning shade of red that lasts for at least a month. There have never been any insect or disease problems.
Grow this plant in any type of soil with plenty of moisture the first few years. If the shrub will be situated in full sunlight, add some water absorbing crystals into the soil during planting. Space plants at least 36″ apart. Itea “Little Henry” probably isn’t suitable for heavy shade, but a northern exposure shouldn’t be a problem. Once established, “Little Henry” is a reliably low-maintenance addition to the garden.