Meadowsweet prefers full sun, in wet to moist conditions, with soil containing high content of organic material. Standing water can be tolerated if temporary. It prefers glaciated areas that are sunny and poorly drained. Habitats include wet prairies, low areas along streams, edges of marshes, bogs, and ditches, or with regular watering in a border or cottage garden.
Meadowsweet grows to be 2-4′ tall and is usually sparingly branched. Young branches are green, but as they age, they become smooth, brown, and woody. Alternate leaves occur along the young branches of the shrub and are densely distributed among them. The leaves are narrowly ovate, sharply serrated, and have short petioles. The upper side of the leaf is medium green with the bottom displaying a pale green. The branches terminate in panicles with flowers about 2-6″ long and are oblong to pyramidal in shape.
The individual flowers are small, white, and distributed along the panicle. There is a narrow ring-like structure that surrounds the 5 pistils in the center of the flower- this floral structure is pink, orange, or yellow and is where the nectar of the plant comes from. Bloom time occurs from mid to late summer and can last about 1-2 months. Fruits then mature in September. Seeds disperse somewhat like milkweed pods.
It resembles Steeplebush (Spiraea tomentosa) which is commonly observed growing alongside it, but this type has pink flowers and the leaves are silvery-white on the underside. Meadowsweet will be easiest to identify when in bloom.