If your landscape includes a section that is damp and shady, consider adding Clethra Alnifolia for a boost of fragrant, bottle-brush shaped blooms that humming birds and butterflies love (and deer don’t!). This easy-to-grown deciduous shrub, commonly known as Summersweet, tolerates conditions most plants can’t – including heavy shade, and wet, clay soil. However, optimum site conditions would be partial shade with a consistently moist, acidic, sandy soil.
Summersweet can be found natively along swampy woodlands, wet marshes, stream banks and seashores, often in sandy soils, along the coast from Maine to Florida. The shrub has a rounded shape, is densely-branched, and usually grows to a height of 3-6 feet. It’s flowering habit of producing mid to late summer, sweetly-scented blooms is especially welcome at a time when the show for most flowering shrubs is winding down. Narrow, white upright panicles of blooms stand out brilliantly against the plant’s glossy, dark green leaves. Newer varieties include additional bloom colors, such as Wayside Gardens’ “Ruby Spice,” – a deep rose hue flower, sure to be a hummingbird favorite. In the fall, the leaves turn a pretty shade of yellow to golden brown, and the flowers give way to dark brown seed capsules that often last into winter.
Clethra looks great massed or grouped in lawns, foundations or shrub borders, and can even work as a hedge. Consider it along stream banks and pond or water garden peripheries. And if conditions allow, consider planting it near a patio, so you can enjoy the lovely fragrance on warm summer evenings.
For more ideas on perfect plantings for challenging landscape site conditions, contact us here at Farmside Landscape & Design.
Main Photo Credit: Proven Winners – Summersweet Clethra