Rick’s Native Plant of the Month | Clethra alnifolia

August 12, 2021

By Rick Bogusch

Bridge Gardens

Clethra alnifolia, commonly called summersweet, is a standout! There’s so much to recommend this lovely native shrub. Five to six feet tall and five feet wide, Clethra’s leaves are late to appear in spring, turn dark green in summer and a clear yellow in October, lasting about three weeks. In early August, long spikes of delightfully fragrant white flowers cover the shrub and scent the surroundings to the delight of bees and other pollinators.

Clethras need acid soil, generally not a problem around here. They prefer moist, even wet, soils, but are easy to grow almost anywhere. With age, if happy in a site, they’ll sucker and form a large colony. There are varieties with slightly pink flowers and some that are smaller in stature.

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