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Spiraea Species, Bowman's Root, Indian Physic, Fawn's Breath

Spiraea trifoliata

Family: Rosaceae (ro-ZAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Spiraea (spy-REE-ah) (Info)
Species: trifoliata (try-foh-lee-AY-tuh) (Info)
Synonym:Gillenia trifoliata
Synonym:Ipecacuanha virginiana
Synonym:Porteranthus trifoliatus



Foliage Color:


Bloom Characteristics:

Unknown - Tell us

Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Requires consistently moist soil; do not let dry out between waterings

Where to Grow:

Unknown - Tell us


18-24 in. (45-60 cm)

24-36 in. (60-90 cm)


24-36 in. (60-90 cm)


USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)

USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)

USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)

USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)

USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)

Sun Exposure:

Sun to Partial Shade


Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Color:

White/Near White

Bloom Time:

Late Spring/Early Summer

Mid Summer

Late Summer/Early Fall



Other details:

Unknown - Tell us

Soil pH requirements:

6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:


Propagation Methods:

By dividing the rootball

From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall

From seed; winter sow in vented containers, coldframe or unheated greenhouse

From seed; sow indoors before last frost

From seed; direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:

Unknown - Tell us


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:


Ridgefield, Connecticut

Lula, Georgia

Chicago, Illinois

Hanna City, Illinois

Plainfield, Illinois

Buckfield, Maine

Northampton, Massachusetts

Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts

Royal Oak, Michigan

Saint Paul, Minnesota

Maplewood, New Jersey

Painted Post, New York

Sag Harbor, New York

Allentown, Pennsylvania

Broomall, Pennsylvania

Pennsburg, Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania

Enumclaw, Washington

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On Nov 21, 2012, Esther35r from Enumclaw, WA wrote:

It is a beautiful graceful plant that does well in the Pacific Northwest, but it took it a while to really get started.

I have a question. When can it be pruned? Can it be pruned to the ground?


On Apr 27, 2012, Marybel99 from Ridgefield, CT wrote:

This is a wonderful perennial in my CT garden. I inherited it when I moved here in 2006, and I look forward each spring for its shoots that grow fast to about 3 feet high with scads of billowy small white blooms that look like little fluttering butterflies. I have successfully propagated it by very careful small divisions without losing the parent plant. No nearby nurseries offer it for sale.

Mine are in full sun, but I am planting new ones I sent for from Oregon in partial sun next to the baptisia on the other side of the garden.

I LOVE this plant. It's well behaved and, at full growth, a pleasure to behold!


On Dec 31, 2008, lakeshoredrive from Chicago, IL wrote:

This plant is easy to grow, the dainty flowers are beautiful, it's native and it takes on great red fall color.


On Jun 22, 2008, grik from Saint Paul, MN wrote:

I don't understand why this plant is not more popular. When it is in bloom it has a delicate grace. It's flowers bring to mind many tiny white butterflies dancing around the plant.

When they finish blooming it fades to the background but is never an eyesore. It lookes great growing with hostas. You can propagate it easily from cuttings.


On Jun 3, 2006, ltcweo from Allentown, PA (Zone 6b) wrote:

I moved this plant from my New England garden to eastern PA last fall and it came back quite nicely. In both cases it was growing on the north side of the house. It is a beautiful delicate looking plant which can easily be overlooked if grown with larger more robust looking specimens..


On Nov 7, 2003, tputnam from Northampton, MA wrote:

While slow to get started, this native to the NE is a great addition to the perennial border, woodland garden or shady garden areas. Benefits from initial support as young shoots tend to lay on the ground; mature plants also need staking (at least under my growing conditions). Lovely white flowers with contrasting reddish buds; personally, I wouldn't do without it.
Adopted by American colonists; listed in U.S. Pharmacopoeia (1820-82; Gillenia trifoliata) - root bark used medicinally as emetic, purgative and expectorant.


On Nov 23, 2001, Baa wrote:

An erect perennial from Eastern North America.

Has toothed, 3-palmate, bronze green leaves on reddish stems. Bears white to pink flushed, lance shaped petal flowers.

Flowers anywhere between May and September.

Likes a moist, well drained, acid - neutral, humus rich soil in partial shade, will tolerate sun but needs shade in the hottest part of the day. Great in a woodland garden.

Good for cutting