Little Henry sweetspire (Itea virginica), also known as Virginia willow, is a fantastic plant to add to your home garden.
With attractive, sweet, and fragrant blossoms in spring and deep green foliage that turns into a spectacle of orange and reds in autumn, it will add life to any landscape.
Because it is native to the eastern United States, it also makes for a great attractor of native wildlife and pollinators.
When choosing companion plants for sweetspire, some things to consider are heights, colors, foliage texture, blossoms, and of course, making sure all plants will thrive in your particular environment and hardiness zone.
Fortunately for you, we have taken the hard work out of the search, narrowed down the choice, and made a list of our 13 favorite companion plants for Little Henry sweetspire.
1. Sweetshrub (Calycanthus)
At the top of our list is the sweetshrub, another native to the southeastern US.
Not only will this plant thrive in the same conditions as sweetspire, but it easily and naturally compliments the bush with its superb flowers and similar height.
- Mature Size: 13 feet tall
- Flowering: Slender petals of scarlet color that bloom from late spring to mid-autumn
- Key Features: Large flowers of up to 3 inches across with unusual, attractive, star-shaped petals
- Popular Varieties: ‘Venus’ sweetshrub, Carolina allspice
2. Rose Mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos)
Because this native has large and focalizing flowers, care should be taken not to overdo it; however, a handful of specimens will look elegant and create a variety of blossoms that will give an attractive, cottage-garden-style landscape.
- Mature Size: 5 – 7 feet tall, 5 feet wide
- Flowering: Mid to late summer with large, white to pink, salverform flowers
- Key Features: Dense, bushy foliage to add a healthy, tropical look
- Popular Varieties: ‘Lord Baltimore’, ‘Pink Tea Cups’, ‘Summer Storm’
3. Inland Sea Oat (Chasmanthium latifolium)
This ornamental grass can be found growing from Florida all the way up to New York and thrives in part shade as well as sunny locations.
Tall grasses have the advantage of fitting into virtually any garden and make great plants to fill in negative spaces, but they can also make excellent features and companion plants planted in front of sweetspire. They will reseed freely, and not always where you want them, but they can be easily weeded out in spring.
- Mature Size: 3 feet tall, 1-2 feet wide
- Flowering: Develops seed heads in summer
- Key Features: Slender green shoots that will turn yellow-gold in autumn
- Popular Varieties: River oat, wild oat
4. Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides)
The Christmas fern might be an unusual choice for gardeners with an eye for “traditional” gardens; however, this evergreen is a fantastic ground cover and companion plant for Little Henry sweetspire and can be planted in whole swathes throughout the garden.
- Mature Size: 1-2 feet tall, 2-3 feet wide
- Flowering: Does not flower
- Key Features: Long, segmented leaf stalks that spread out into a crisp, green bouquet
- Popular Varieties: Christmas fern
5. Fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus)
This highly aesthetic tree is a sought-after specimen for gardens in zones 3 to 9 and delivers a magnificent bloom of white, slender flowers. The male trees have prettier flowers than the females, but the females get the very attractive-to-wildlife fruit if a male tree is nearby.
The tree’s shape mimics that of sweetspire.
- Mature Size: 9-15 feet tall
- Flowering: Late spring, clusters of long white and fragrant flowers up to 8 inches long
- Key Features: Rich green foliage, white lacy flowers followed by vibrant purple fruits in autumn
- Popular Varieties: American fringetree, Chinese fringetree
6. Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora)
Magnolias are one of the most well-known trees from the southeastern United States, and their glossy, multicolored foliage and huge flowers are loved by many.
There is one drawback, however, and that’s the absolutely gigantic size these trees can reach. There are smaller varieties if you don’t have a lot of space in your garden. Some, like the star magnolia (Magnolia stellata) can even be grown in containers.
- Mature Size: 90 feet+
- Flowering: Late spring (although some trees may skip a season or two)
- Key Features: Huge, honey-lemon scented flowers up to 12 inches wide
- Popular Varieties: ‘Little Gem’, ‘Bracken’s Brown Beauty’, ‘Edith Bogue’
7. Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)
These intense, striking, and upright red flowers make for a brilliant companion plant to sweetspire’s hanging, fluffy, ivory-gray flowers.
Cardinal flowers will feel right at home in a southern-style garden and will tolerate part shade well. Lobelia requires constantly moist soil, which sweetspire will tolerate.
- Mature Size: 4 feet tall, 1-2 feet wide
- Flowering: Early summer to early fall
- Key Features: Intense scarlet flowers that shoot up erect from the head of the plant
- Popular Varieties: ‘Queen Victoria’, ‘Starship Deep Rose’, ‘Vedrariensis’
8. Blood Sage (Salvia coccinea)
There are many varieties of native flowering sage available for growers in the US, and among those that are tall and attractive when paired with sweetspire is the blood sage.
Sage varieties are very tolerant of adverse environments and will grow without any input. These flowers are pretty and dainty and bloom for a long time.
This salvia is hardy in zones 9 to 10, reseeds easily in zones 6 to 8, and is grown as an annual in zones 5 and lower.
- Mature Size: 2 feet tall
- Flowering: Spring through to summer
- Key Features: Tall blooms of classic sage bell flowers, ranging from soft pinks to deep reds
- Popular Varieties: Blood sage, Purple Texas sage
9. Firewheel (Gaillardia pulchella)
Firewheels (also known as blanket flower) are absolutely spectacular examples of flowers that are native to America, and with their splashes of color, they add an exciting element as a low-lying companion plant to sweetspire.
This is also an important wildflower of the prairies and is a food source for many birds, and pollinators like native bees.
- Mature Size: 24 inches tall, 10 – 15 inches wide
- Flowering: Around May to July
- Key Features: Daisy-like petals with intense red centers and touches of orange and yellow on fringes
- Popular Varieties: Indian Blanket
10. Hubricht’s Bluestar (Amsonia hubrichtii)
Another native that loves moist soils as much as sweetspire, the bluestar is a lovely combination of medium-height, delicate blue flowers and evergreen foliage.
This plant is a good bet for beginners as it is easy to grow, is relatively drought resistant, doesn’t mind some shade, and is almost pest and disease resistant.
- Mature Size: 2-3 feet high, 2-3 feet wide
- Flowering: Late spring to early summer
- Key Features: Pale blue, star-shaped flowers and wonderful auburn fall color
- Popular Varieties: Hubricht’s bluestar, narrow-leaf bluestar
11. Sedge (Cyperaceae)
Sedge incorporates many varieties of plants that are virtually maintenance-free and, interestingly, are well suited for planting in both highly water-saturated areas like swamps and ponds as well as in gardens situated in drought-affected areas.
This makes sedge plants real winners for those locations with clay and other poorly draining soils. Visually, these plants add an effortlessly clean, architectural look, which is ideal for gardeners wishing for a neat and orderly landscape without having to invest time in garden care.
- Mature Size: 3-4 feet tall, 3-4 feet wide
- Flowering: Some varieties will develop attractive seed heads in late summer
- Key Features: Long, tall strands of gently falling leaves
- Popular Varieties: Creek, Fraser’s, Malibu
12. Iris (Iris)
Irises have long held a firm place in the hearts of many traditional gardeners, and it’s easy to see why. The range of colors is immense, all with wonderfully frilled flowers, almost like ballerinas suspended above the ground.
With their slender upright leaf shoots and blossom stalks, they make an excellent visual contrast and complement to sweetspire.
- Mature Size: 2-3 feet high, 1 foot wide
- Flowering: Usually late spring to early summer, some varieties may bloom again in late summer
- Key Features: Three distinct outer petals and three inner petals
- Popular Varieties: Japanese, Siberian
13. Mulberry (Morus)
Last but certainly not least, the mulberry is a personal favorite of ours — and not only because the fruits are incredibly delicious!
Large, glossy, oval leaves make it a wonderful shade tree/shrub in summer, and then it loses its leaves and lets light in during winter.
While this is a large tree, much larger than sweetspire, heavy pruning or container planting will keep it at manageable heights.
- Mature Size: Up to 80 feet tall
- Flowering: Will begin flowering at the beginning of summer
- Key Features: Unassuming white tubular flowers, which quickly turn into fruits
- Popular Varieties: White, black, and red mulberry varieties
There are many species and varieties of plants ideally suited as companions to Little Henry Sweetspire, and this native has many other naturally occurring partners as well.
Now that we have done the research for you and narrowed down the search, the fun part is up to you — designing your ideal landscape so that your garden can be your own personal pride and sanctuary.