Name: Clethra alnifolia aka summer sweet, sweet pepperbush, or just plain clethra.
Type of Plant: A shrub that’s native to this area and grows well in full sun or part-sun.
Why I love this plant: This shrub brings so much to the party…fragrant flowers in late-July through August, lovely yellow fall foliage color, and attractive black seeds that remain on the plants through winter. It’s a favorite of pollinators and there are times in the spring when I can watch the goldfinches feeding off the seeds that remain…so at that time of year it looks like it’s in bloom with yellow birds!
There are a few cultivars of this plant that are useful for assorted garden situations, including ‘Hummingbird’ that stays short. No matter which plant you choose, this is a great Firepit Plantings selection because it’s sweetly fragrant in the evenings. So put it near your firepit, screened porch or deck.
The species shrub, which grows 4 to 6 feet tall is also a good plant to combine with other shrubs in a border. Combine it with other natives for an attractive privacy border that is also provides good bird and pollinator habitat.
A Word to the Wise: Most Clethra will spread by gently suckering to the sides of the main stem. You can cut these new stems off if you need to rein the plant in, or you can let it spread to form a nice colony or grouping. This plant may be a native but it is not for the driest landscapes. Use it in moist soils or in places where it will be watered every couple of weeks in times of drought.