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Itea Growing Guide
You cannot fail to be impressed by a plant which can produce flower tassels in high summer longer than the plant itself when grown in a pot.
Itea are a small genus of evergreen and deciduous shrubs or small trees mainly from East Asia but with one (I. virginica) from the USA. They have holly-like toothed leaves and all produce long catkin-like racemes of cream or greenish white flowers.
I. ilicifolia and I. yunnanensis are both evergreen shrubs and best grown against a warm, sunny, wall or fence. I. virginica, which needs more moisture, is better grown as a shrub in a border or as a freestanding specimen plant in a woodland glade with partial shade.
I. ilicifolia grows from 6-12ft tall with a similar spread and its flower tassels are 6-12in long. They appear in August but this can be variable.
I. virginica grows to only around 6ft with a width of 3-4ft. Its flowers are fragrant and its tassels of flowers are 3-6in in length. They appear in June and July.
I. yunnanensis wins the competition with us for the longest flower tassels. We have measured these at 12-15in even in small young plants. The reference books indicated 7in. This species grows to 6-10ft in height in maturity with a similar spread. The flowers appear in August and on into autumn.
When growing these plants against a wall they will need to be tied into wires or other supports. Itea produce long new growth shoots and these will need attention each year.
Itea will root from greenwood cuttings in spring or from semi ripe new growth in summer with bottom heat. We do not find that they set seed with us.
In the appearance of its flowers this plant perhaps has similarities with Garrya elliptica. Garrya also have long flower tassels but these appear in winter rather than summer.