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Clethra alnifolia

Common Name(s):

  • Clethra
  • Summersweet
  • Sweet Pepperbush
Phonetic Spelling
KLETH-rah al-nih-FOH-lee-ah
Description

Summersweet clethra, Clethra alnifolia, also known as coastal sweet pepperbush, grows naturally along streams in the eastern United States from Maine to Florida.  This upright deciduous shrub has fragrant white flowers arranged in showy 3- to 5-inch racemes.  It blooms in July and August, providing beauty to the late summer garden as well as food for bees and butterflies.  The fruit, though not showy, is eaten by birds.  Its bark is gray and loosely striped. Use clethra for summer flowers in wet, shady areas, particularly where the fragrance can be appreciated. The plant spreads by stolons.  It is a very hardy, carefree plant that is moderately salt tolerant.

‘Sixteen Candles’ and ‘Hummingbird’ are compact shrubs with white flowers.  ‘Rosea,’ ‘Pink Spires’ and ‘Ruby Spice’ are three pink-flowered cultivars.  ‘Ruby Spice’ is the darkest pink color, which holds even in the coastal plains.  ‘Sherry Sue’ sports white flowers and bright red stems.  ‘September Beauty’ is noteworthy for flowering later in the season. Another interesting species, Clethra tomentosa, has foliage that has soft, short hairs, and very long racemes.  The Japanese pepperbush, Clethra barbinervis, exhibits beautiful cinnamon-colored exfoliating bark as it matures.

Regions:  Piedmont, Coastal Plains

Seasons of Interest:

     Foliage: Fall, yellow  Bloom: Summer   Fruit: Summer-Fall

Seed: Capsule

Play Value: Wildlife Enhancement

Wildlife Value:   The flowers of the Sweet pepperbush attracts bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.  Its fruit attracts birds. This plant is resistant to damage by deer.

Insects, Diseases, or Other Plant Problems:  Spider mites may be a concern in dry conditions.  When planted in the proper site, it is insect- and disease- resistant.

Compare this plant to: Clethra alnifolia

Cultivars:
  • 'Crystalinia'
  • 'Hummingbird'
  • 'Paniculata'
  • 'Pinkspire'
  • 'Rosea'
  • 'Ruby Spice'
  • 'September Beauty'
  • 'Sherry Sue'
  • 'Sixteen Candles'
  • 'White Doves'
Tags:
#bees#native#hummingbirds#butterflies#deciduous#birds#pollinators#fragrant flowers#wildlife plant#fragrance#salt tolerant#playground#coastal#wet sites#highly beneficial coastal plants#salt spray tolerant#cpp#low flammability#children's garden#fire resistant
Cultivars:
  • 'Crystalinia'
  • 'Hummingbird'
  • 'Paniculata'
  • 'Pinkspire'
  • 'Rosea'
  • 'Ruby Spice'
  • 'September Beauty'
  • 'Sherry Sue'
  • 'Sixteen Candles'
  • 'White Doves'
Tags:
#bees#native#hummingbirds#butterflies#deciduous#birds#pollinators#fragrant flowers#wildlife plant#fragrance#salt tolerant#playground#coastal#wet sites#highly beneficial coastal plants#salt spray tolerant#cpp#low flammability#children's garden#fire resistant
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Clethra
    Species:
    alnifolia
    Family:
    Clethraceae
    Fire Risk Rating:
    low flammability
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    fire in the landscape.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Native Plant
    Shrub
    Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Pink
    White
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
  • Leaves:
    Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Hairs Present:
    No
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Theme:
    Children's Garden
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Hummingbirds
    Pollinators
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Salt
    Wet Soil