Clethra are unique among flowering shrubs because they bloom in shady locations in late summer when few other shrubs are in bloom (although flowering, fragrance, and fall color are all at their best with at least a few hours of sun each day). A mounded, suckering, densely-branched, deciduous shrub. Glossy dark green leaves turn shades of yellow in fall. Spikes of fragrant white flowers produce high quality nectar and pollen in late summer, then in fall, produce seeds which birds enjoy. The peppercorn-like seeds give summersweet its’ other common name – sweet pepperbush.
Prefers part shade and consistently moist soils. Soils should not be allowed to dry out.
Supports birds, hummingbirds, butterflies and beneficials. Special value to native bees.
Height: 3-8 ft.
Spread: 4-6 ft.
Bloom time: July to August
Sun: full sun to part shade
Water: medium to wet
According to Rutgers University, Clethra are “seldom severely damaged” by deer.
photo credit: bloom mfeaver