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Clethra alnifolia 'Crystalina' PP21,561

Common Name(s):
Summersweet, Summersweet clethra, 'Crystalina' Summersweet Clethra
Native Plants, Shrubs

Clethra alnifolia is the only species of Clethra native to North America.  Grows naturally in poorly drained, moist soils, getting larger and producing more suckers if provided plenty of water (once established, it can thrive in drier conditions).   Summersweets are somewhat unique among flowering shrubs because of their ability to bloom in shady locations in late summer when few other shrubs are in bloom.  

'Crystalina', commonly sold under the trade name of SUGARTINA, is a diminutive and refined summersweet with showy, fragrant flowers.  Reining in the height of Summersweet greatly expands the potential of this native shrub in modern landscapes. Selected from a population of seedlings derived from an open pollinated 'Ruby Spice', 'Crystalina' provides a handsome improvement with a compact, rounded form. Flowers are particularly showy with long, floriferous racemes. It roots readily from softwood cuttings.

Ethnobotany: It is used for soap (flowers produce lather when crushed in water).

Season of interest:

      Bloom: Summer    Leaf: Fall/leaf color  Twig/Bark: Winter

Wildlife Value: Clethra is an excellent plant in pollinator gardens. The fragrant, white flowers and nectar are very attractive to bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Many birds and mammals eat the fruit and aid in seed dispersal. Deer will eat it only when other forage vegetation is limited.

Insects, Diseases and Other Problems: Damage caused by spider mites can be severe in hot, dry conditions.


3 ft
Alternate, simple, glossy, sharply serrated medium to deep green leaves; 1½ to 4 inches long; often woolly or tomentose below; it is late to leaf out in spring and has outstanding pale yellow to golden-brown fall color.
Showy and fragrant, lasting up to 6 weeks during the middle of summer when other flowering shrubs are not blooming due to heat! Intense spicy fragrant, white, long, floriferous racemes, formed by up to 100 individual flowers. Flowering occurs on current season's growth. Black, peppercorn-like capsules which persist throughout winter. Good identification feature.
Tolerates wet soil. It will grow in full sun, but does best in light, dappled shade. Clethra prefers part shade and consistently moist, acidic, sandy soils. Soils should not be allowed to dry out. It tolerates clay soils and full shade and is excellent for coastal gardens due to salt-spray tolerance.
Compact, rounded
Full sun to light shade
5 ft
coastal garden, salt tolerant, showy flowers, wet soil, deciduous, wet sites, fall color, bees, birds, hummingbirds, wildlife, pollinators, wet, salt spray, winter interest, fragrant flowers, clay soil

NCCES plant id: 3113

Clethra alnifolia 'Crystalina' Form
Clethra alnifolia 'Crystalina' Clethra alnifolia 'Crystalina'