Clethra alnifolia L. coastal sweetpepperbush

To all our garden lovers. Often you read many books telling you that there are some plants that attract butterflies and hummingbirds. The problem is that you just don’t seem to be there at that exact moment when the butterfly or hummer appears. This plant has other features that might be interesting to you as well. First, it is an easy plant to grow. It is disease and insect resistant and  grows quickly to fill a well needed space. Most of all it has beautiful  cone like flowers in many desirable colors.

Clethra alnifolia L - Bryce L Davis Organic GardeningEasily grown in average, medium to wet, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. Adaptive to a wide range of soil, moisture and light conditions. Prefers part shade and consistently moist to wet, acidic soils. Tolerates full shade, however. Spreads slowly by rhizomes.

Some noteworthy characteristics of this plant species are:

  • It is a slender, upright, slowly spreading, deciduous shrub which typically grows 5-8′ tall and features fluffy, bottle brush-like, terminal, 3-6″ spikes (racemes) of extremely fragrant white flowers which bloom on current season’s growth for 4-6 weeks in mid to late summer and serrated, glossy, dark green leaves which turn a striking yellow in autumn. The flower spikes then give way to spikes of dark brown seed capsules which persist into winter and provide continuing interest. Flowers are very attractive to butterflies and bees. Somewhat unique among the summer-flowering shrubs because of its ability to produce good bloom in shady locations.
  • There are very few disease or pest problems with this plant. Summersweet masses well in areas in lawns or along shrubbery borders, where it’s appealing foliage, fragrant summer blooms and good fall color can be a focal point. It upright habit makes it ideal for those narrow spaces in the garden or around foundations. Clethra is also highly utilized in wet areas, along stream banks and pond or water gardens.

For more information you can visit the United States Dept of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Page about Clethra