Summersweet Clethra


Botanical Name:  Clethra alnifolia

Common Name: Summersweet Clethra

A deciduous shrub native to swampy woodlands, wet marshes, stream banks and seashores, often found in sandy soils. It is a rounded, suckering, densely-branched shrub noted for producing a mid to late summer bloom of sweetly fragrant white flowers.

Sun, part sun, shade. 

Height: 4-8 ft; Width: 4-6 ft

This is a deciduous woody plant which loses its leaves in the winter. By late September this plant may have brown or discolored leaves with some leaf loss. This is normal in the plant’s life cycle and not a sign of damage or an unhealthy plant. Even though this plant may not have green foliage, fall is still the best time of year to plant deciduous trees and shrubs.

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Summersweet clethra is a fantastic shrub with all-season garden interest. This native species, also called sweet pepperbush, flowers profusely for 4 to 6 weeks during July and August when few other plants are in bloom, and the flowers fill the garden with their spicy fragrance. The flower cluster is white and varies from 3 to 6 inches long, and is extremely fragrant. The flowers are attractive to bees and butterflies, and the resulting dark brown seed capsules will attract birds during the autumn.

This native plant will grow in full sun to total shade, but will grow best in light, dappled shade, or with morning sun and afternoon shade. These shrubs will even bloom profusely in complete shade.

Because of its tolerance for moist soils, it can be used for streambank erosion control. These shrubs sucker and will slowly spread as new trunks emerge from the roots to increase the size of the planting.