Plant Spotlight – Summersweet, Clethra alnifolia

Summersweet is a beautiful, small to medium sized shrub, that deserves a spot in every landscape.  As lovely as it is tough, this easy to grow native is sure to delight all who plant it.  In the wild, summersweet is found in areas with moist soil, so if you have a soggy part of the garden, this plant can handle it.  It is also adaptable to drier areas though, and is often used in some of landscaping’s toughest sites – along streets and in parking lots.  Either part sun or full sun are acceptable, but you will get heavier flowering in a sunnier location.  In July the plant becomes covered in white or pink bottlebrush flowers that are accompanied by a wonderful fragrance, hence the common name, Summersweet.  It’s fall color is a pleasing yellow, and although it is not it’s primary ornamental characteristic, it is worth mentioning.  One really cool feature of this plant is that it is great for attracting pollinating insects.  When my Summersweet is flowering at the nursery it is always covered in bees, butterflies, and moths.  It is useful in a vegetable garden setting for attracting pollinators, and would be great for planting in a hedgerow.  Available at the nursery are the cultivars ‘Hummingbird’ which has white flowers and reaches 3 feet in height, and ‘Ruby Spice’ with pink flowers and a max height of 4 feet (pictured below).