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Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia) for Difficult Growing Conditions

Don’t let heavy shade or damp and clay soil stop you from gardening. Consider adding a Summersweet, Clethra alnifolia, to your landscape.

This North American native can be found growing in swampy woodlands, marshes, along stream banks and seashores. This suckering shrub has dense branching and grows 3 to 6 and occasionally 8 feet tall and 4 to 6 feet wide. It is hardy in zones 3 to 9.

The fragrant white flowers attract butterflies and bees, while brightening the landscape for 4 to 6 weeks in July and August. But the show doesn’t end there. The green leaves turn an attractive yellow in the fall. Plus, the tidy appearance makes it a nice addition to the winter landscape.

It grows best in full sun to part shade and moist to wet soil.

Use summersweet in rain gardens, shrub borders, narrow spaces and perennial gardens where its four-season beauty can be enjoyed.

A bit more information: This versatile shrub, also known as Sweet Pepperbush, is generally trouble-free. The cultivar Hummingbird is more compact, slow spreading and grows about 3 to 4 feet tall. Sugartina is even smaller at 30 inches with clear white flowers. Pink Spire has pink buds that open into pinkish white flowers.

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