Plant Type
Sunlight Amount
summersweet clethra alnifolia
Credit: Marty Baldwin
summersweet clethra alnifolia

A North American native, summersweet marks the ending of summer with its fragrant white flowers. It starts blooming in August in many areas and continues the show into fall when the small to medium shrub’s foliage yellows. Hummingbirds and butterflies flock to summersweet blossoms, but deer steer clear, making this a great shrub for locations with a large deer population.

genus name
  • Clethra alnifolia
  • Part Sun
  • Sun
plant type
  • Shrub
  • 3 to 8 feet
  • Up to 8 feet
flower color
season features
problem solvers
special features
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9

Summersweet Care Must-Knows

Native to swampy woodlands, summersweet is easy to grow in average to wet soil in full sun or part shade. It tolerates consistently moist soil—sandy or clay—with ease. It will grow in full shade but tends to have an open and loose habit. Avoid planting summersweet in a hot, dry location. It will languish if its root zone dries out.

Plant summersweet in spring. Blanket the soil around the shrub with a 2-inch-thick layer of mulch to prevent soil moisture evaporation. Water plants regularly during the first growing season to establish a deep, extensive root system. Prune summersweet as needed in early fall after flowering. Summersweet will send up suckers and spread over time. Remove suckers immediately if you do not want a dense hedge.

Landscaping With Summersweet

Dark glossy foliage, late summer flowers, and brilliant autumn foliage makes summersweet a valuable shrub. Plant compact varieties in perennial planting beds to add year-round structure and late-summer interest. Employ summersweet as a hedge along a property line, creating a wildlife oasis at the same time. Great planting companions for this easy-to-grow shrub include ninebark, dogwood, aster, and purple coneflower.

More Varieties of Summersweet

'Ruby Spice' summersweet

This compact variety of Clethra alnifolia has unusual rose-pink flowers and glossy green foliage and is great for mixed shrub borders. Zones 4–9


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