Clethra alnifolia (Sweet Pepperbush, Summersweet)

Tried and True Native Plant Selections for the Mid-Atlantic

Summer sweet and spicy is the pleasant fragrance of this pollinator magnet that naturalizes readily in shady, damp places as well as coastal landscapes. Although not native to NoVA (it is common in the Mid-Atlantic Coastal Plain), it grows well in cultivation here. The Virginia Native Plant Society honored Sweet Pepperbush as Wildflower of the Year in 2015.

Print Version (Legal Size): Clethra alnifolia (Sweet Pepperbush, Summersweet)

Clethra alnifolia Sweet Pepperbush, Summersweet Shrub Height: 6–12 feet Spread: 3–6 feet Bloom Color: White (pink cultivars) Characteristics Upright to rounded, twiggy deciduous shrub Quilted, medium green to dark green foliage Intensely scented, creamy white flowers (resemble Buddleia) bloom July and August on new growth Green to brown elongated spikes of dry capsules from September to January Yellow autumn foliage Brown to taupe bark, exfoliating with age Often suckers to form broad colonies Attributes Tolerates clay soil, dense shade (where it will flower), and salt (moderate); no serious pests or diseases; deer seldom severely damage Excellent for attracting native bees, hummingbirds, & butterflies; birds & small mammals eat the fruit Growing and Maintenance Tips Soil Requirements: Average Light Requirements: Sun, Partial Shade, Shade Water Requirements: Moist, Wet Grows in full sun, but prefers dappled shade To contain spread, remove root suckers as they appear; any pruning should occur in late winter Use in borders, near foundations, in butterfly, hummer, or rain gardens, or to control erosion Hardiness: USDA Zones 3–9 Excellent Replacement for Buddleia davidii and hybrids - Butterfly Bush Lythrum salicaria - Purple Loosestrife Rosa species - Roses Spirea japonica - Japanese Spirea Viburnum lantana - Wayfaring Tree Vitex agnus-castus - Chaste Tree
Learn more about other Mid-Atlantic plants: Tried and True Plant Fact Sheets