a plant I’d order: spiraea thunbergii ‘ogon’

spiraea thunbergii ogonONLY ONE DECIDUOUS SHRUB here still has its leaves at Thanksgiving, and what amazing leaves they are. Spiraea thunbergii ‘Ogon’ remains the richest gold, weeks after any other shrub but evergreens and fruit-filled hollies were worth a second look. I can’t stop looking at ‘Ogon’ (Japanese for “gold”), which catches my eye even though it’s at the farthest edge of the garden, beckoning.

I have read that in the Pacific Northwest, ‘Ogon’ (Zones 4-8, sun to part shade) may even keep its leaves, and color—the kind of golden that’s closer to orange than yellow–until Christmas. This form of Spiraea starts its season with an early show of tiny white flowers on its otherwise-bare, arching branches, which pop before the willowy-textured yellow foliage appears.

By summer ‘Ogon’ is yellow-green here, so even in its dullest moment not so bad. This is a great plant for the end of an axial view; mine is due west of where I sit and ponder (my current job: fulltime rumination). At 5 by 5 feet, ‘Ogon’ makes quite an impact even in such a long view. The one here is beside a winterberry holly of equal size, and the two have intermingled, together forming a yin-yang of hottest red and gold.

Spiraeas can be twiggy messes; this one is best pruned by removing the oldest, unproductive stems at the base each year to make room for new growth. Some fine-tuning of spent flowerheads may also be desired. Prune just after bloom (or earlier in spring if you don’t mind missing the flowers, produced on last season’s growth). Don’t try a partial cutback, which just makes the twiginess even worse, and spoils the natural mounding, arching habit of this good-as-gold shrub.

  1. Kathy says:

    Margaret, I running out of space but I love the Spiraea in your photo. In the fall I always seem to find another spot that I can fill.

  2. Jayne says:

    Beautiful! What a joy it must be when all else is in between bleak and bare. I think there is a new book out on shrubs. Will you be doing a “book list” for holiday wish lists? Or do you know a good link to the newest and best books?

  3. Dottie says:

    I love all kinds of spirea and have several in my gardens, but I’ve never seen this one before. I just might have to add it to my landscape as I am always looking to add more color for the fall as most of my trees and shrubs have lost their leaves by early November.

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Dottie. This is the only Spiraea I grow, the showiest I think over a prolonged season (not just that spring moment that most have). You will like it, I suspect. See you soon again.

  4. Tammy says:

    “Spireas can be twiggy messes” Miss Margaret have you been lurking in my garden? I have a spirea that IS a twiggy mess and overdue for a pruning. Thanks for the instruction, much needed!

  5. Donna says:

    Can you share a mail-order source, or two, for this wonderful spirea? I have read much about it over the years, but have never found it locally. Thanks for any assistance you can give me in finally procuring one!

  6. Sharon says:

    quoting you: my current job: fulltime rumination.
    I’d like to order the large size, wish it were
    available mail-order, lol.

  7. Susan says:

    A twiggy mess is putting it nicely, indeed! When we moved into our old (1920) house almost a decade ago, one side was overgrown with a solid thicket of spirea bushes. I cut them down & back to try and unearth the house, and all these years later they’re still growing mad little spikes and suckers everywhere I look. Do you ever have a problem with your spirea growing out of control in such a manner, or am I the only lucky one?

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Susan. The big old ones can be impossible, you are right, since it sounds as if they were neglected too long. So you are not alone. These are ambitious plants to say the least. See you soon again, I hope.

  8. Kali says:

    Margaret, your ‘Ogon’ looks beautiful! Now I realize that “the twiggy mess” of one in my friends yard is NOT what it’s meant to look like. Now I must have one too!
    By the way, my one deciduous shrub with all of it’s leaves is Itea ‘Little Henry’ (five of them, actually). Still gorgeous with yellow and dusty pink leaves. Looks great next to the still blooming coral Knock Out Roses. Wowee for Fall color!

  9. Brenda Rose says:

    I have this shrub “Mellow Yellow” and it’s my favorite. Chartreuse in the spring, light green in the summer and orange in the fall. The color is always stunning and goes with everything. I’ve had mine for 6 years and it does not sucker, although the base clump does grow.

    Unlike other shrubs, this one can be divided. I have done this several times and now have 6 of them. I may have to do it some more, because everyone wants one when they see it. It’s color pairs well with dark purple or bright orange. Keep it away from soft pinks or pastels.

    Mine are not large shrubs, probably because they’ve been divided, but they do not grow as vigorously as the stand bridal wreath spiraea.

  10. Tricia says:

    I would love to add this to my garden! I am always looking for more gold to mix with late season color, it brings such a happy feeling. Do you have a mail order source? It doesn’t seem to be available locally.

  11. J. Ellen says:

    I’ve had three “Ogon” spirea at the end of my driveway for about 6 years and every year I appreciate them more and more. The deer do not touch them and the bright light greenish yellow foliage looks fresh all summer. And yes, the golden fall color lasts and lasts (here in Orange County, NY). I picked up my plants at a Home Depot just by chance, not really knowing anything about them. Now I recommend them highly to everyone.

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, J. Ellen. My plants finally stopped glowing around December 15 or thereabouts, an amazing performance. Glad to see you here, and hear that ‘Ogon’ is a delight for you as well. See you soon again!

  12. John Willis says:

    Well, we ended up buying 3 such spirea after seeing attractive photos such as yours. So far we are not impressed. Yes, they stayed green for a long time but when the time came for fall color the leaves just sort of frizzeled and fell off. We’ll give it another year to be a primetime player, but it’s in a nice spot and there are other plants that would like a chance to strut their stuff…

    1. Margaret says:

      @John: Mine was a bore until it got settled in, like so many things; definitely wasn’t thrilling the first year or so, maybe even two (I started with a small plant). Now it has grown into a big, important member of the garden community here. I hope for the best with yours, and thanks for your visit.

  13. Rebecca says:

    You’re right about the PNW-I live in the Northern Oregon hills near the coast and It still has it’s leaves. It’s a piece I took from the home where I grew up nearby in the Willamette Valley-we always called it “the bridal veil bush”. It’s so nice to have some little bits of home growing in the garden:)

  14. Barbara says:

    I am in zone 5 / chicago and after about 3 years my Ogon has become fabulous. I ordered it from Avant Gardens in Massachusetts (www.avantgardensne.com). We had a mild winter and basically it didn’t die back at all — wonderful multi-season color. I highly recommend it.

    1. margaret says:

      Thanks, Barbara, for the endorsement. Mine are really growing up and I love them more all the time. See you soon again I hope.

  15. Denise says:

    Wow, I did not realize that it can grow that large. I think I will be transplanting ours to a spot where they will have plenty of room to grow. Thank you for posting this!

    1. margaret says:

      You’re welcome, Denise. Theoretically it’s maybe 6 by 6 feet, or 5 by 6, so leave room! I have two near each other so it’s a double-whammy of color. :)

  16. Teri K Weaver says:

    I listened to your podcast about this plant this morning and was inspired. But it’s pretty large for my city lot. Any thoughts about something smaller? Or can you just hack it back every three or four years and keep it under control?

    1. margaret says:

      Hi, Teri. It will get to 5 by 5ish (but not for a few years). You could prune hard every five years or thereabouts, I suppose. Not giant, but medium-sized.

  17. judi Le Penske says:

    Can they be pruned back in mid fall before the leaves drop? They are in a mixed perennial bed that I clean out in the fall.

    1. margaret says:

      Hi, Judi. I don’t like to prune shrubs in fall in my cold zone, when the harshest weather is ahead, but rather right after bloom (or very early spring, even). However, if you need to lift up the canopy to get under it, I suppose you could take out a few errant branches at the base to make room.

  18. Linda says:

    I have a large spiraea japonica in my garden (zone 9) which has been so happy and beautiful that I bought another last year to place on the other side of the garden. In my area of severe drought, these plants have thrived and do so well where others have shriveled and died.
    I’d love to plant an ‘ogon’….do you think it will be happy in the Sacramento valley where we have 100 degree (and over) summers?

    1. margaret says:

      Hi, Linda. Though virtually all reference sources say it’s only hardy (on the upper end) to Zone 8, not 9, I’d ask the best local nursery near you if they have any feedback on it there.

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