Summersweet Shrubs: Plant Spotlight

Summersweet shrubs, also known as Clethra alnifolia, are beautiful and fragrant plants that are native to the eastern United States. These shrubs are beloved by gardeners for their lovely blooms, attractive foliage, and tolerance for a range of growing conditions. Here's everything you need to know about summersweet shrubs.
Summersweet shrubs are deciduous plants that can grow up to 8 feet tall, depending on the variety. They have glossy green leaves that turn yellow in the fall, and they produce large spikes of fragrant, white or pink flowers in mid to late summer. The flowers are highly attractive to bees, butterflies, and other pollinators, making summersweet shrubs a great addition to any garden.
Why Summersweet Shrubs are Great for Iowa Climate
Summersweet shrubs are an excellent choice for Iowa gardens because they are highly adaptable to a range of growing conditions. They can tolerate a wide range of soil types and pH levels, and they are highly resistant to pests and diseases. Additionally, they are hardy plants that can survive cold temperatures, making them a great choice for Iowa's climate.
Types and Varieties
There are many different types of summersweet shrubs, each with its own unique characteristics. Some of the most popular varieties include:
• Hummingbird Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia 'Hummingbird'): This compact variety grows to just 3-4 feet tall and produces spikes of fragrant, pink flowers.
• Ruby Spice Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia 'Ruby Spice'): This cultivar grows to 6-8 feet tall and produces spikes of fragrant, pinkish-red flowers.
• Sixteen Candles Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia 'Sixteen Candles'): This cultivar grows to 4-6 feet tall and produces long, narrow spikes of fragrant, white flowers.
Caring for Summersweet Shrubs
Summersweet shrubs are relatively low-maintenance plants, but they do require some care to ensure that they stay healthy and produce beautiful blooms year after year. Here are some tips for caring for your summersweet shrubs:
• Plant in well-draining soil: Summersweet shrubs prefer soil that is well-draining and slightly acidic.
• Water regularly: Water your summersweet shrubs regularly, especially during dry spells or hot weather.
• Fertilize once a year: Apply a balanced fertilizer in early spring to promote healthy growth and flowering.
• Prune after blooming: Prune your summersweet shrubs after they have finished blooming to remove dead or damaged wood and shape the plant.
Summersweet shrubs require regular maintenance to keep them healthy and looking their best. Here are some tips for maintaining your summersweet shrubs:
• Deadhead spent blooms: Remove spent blooms after they have faded to encourage the plant to produce more flowers.
• Mulch around the base: Apply a layer of mulch around the base of the plant to help retain moisture and suppress weeds.
• Monitor for pests and diseases: Keep an eye out for pests like aphids or diseases like powdery mildew, and treat promptly if necessary.
• Divide every few years: Summersweet shrubs can become crowded over time, so it's a good idea to divide them every few years to maintain their vigor.
Perennial or Annual?
Summersweet shrubs are perennial plants, meaning that they will come back year after year with proper care.
Popular Kinds
Some of the most popular summersweet shrub varieties include Hummingbird Summersweet, Ruby Spice Summersweet, and Sixteen Candles Summersweet. Other popular cultivars include Rosea, Pink Spires, and Vanille Fraise