Growing and Caring for Summersweet Plant (Clethra alnifolia)


growing summersweet plant

By Jennifer Poindexter

Finding a durable shrub that works in multiple planting zones, is low-maintenance, yet still provides beauty, can seem challenging.

However, it isn’t impossible. Are you familiar with the summersweet plant? This is a deciduous shrub that meets the needs mentioned above.

If you’re unfamiliar with how to grow this shrub, you’re in the right place. I’m going to walk you through the basics of growing this plant. Then, when you’re ready, you can put this knowledge into practice by adding this plant to your landscape.

Here’s what you should know when growing the summersweet plant:

Growing Conditions for the Summersweet Plant

The summersweet plant is a deciduous shrub with dark, shiny foliage during the summer and yellowish brown foliage during the fall.

It blooms in late summer producing colorful vertical flowers that come in shades of white and pink. They grow to lengths between two and six inches.

Plus, they produce a sweet fragrance. These sweet smelling blooms are also useful in attracting different pollinators such as hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees.

You should expect this plant to reach heights between three and six feet and grow as wide as four to six feet.

The bush grows in an oval shape and produces full branches which make the shrub great for providing privacy.

Summersweet is a great option for growing near the ocean as it can withstand salt spray. It also does well growing next to ponds or streams as this plant loves water and can even grow in areas with standing water.

When growing summersweet, be sure to provide a few simple conditions for the plant to grow in. This shrub is hardy in planting zones three through nine. It can withstand temperatures above 100-degrees Fahrenheit and also well below freezing.

It requires full to partial sunlight. The perfect growing area would have morning sunlight with afternoon shade.

Also, be sure to grow summersweet in soil that’s loamy and well-draining, when possible.

As you can see, summersweet is a versatile plant that doesn’t require much when it comes to growing conditions. Therefore, this plant could be a great fit for many different settings.

pink fragrant summersweet plant growing by porch

How to Plant the Summersweet Plant

There are various ways you can plant summersweet around your home. We’re going to discuss how you can transplant a purchased shrub, propagate new plants from cuttings of a mature plant, and also how you may grow summersweet from seed.

The first way to add summersweet to your property is by transplanting a purchased plant. It’s best to plant this shrub in the spring no matter the method used.

Pick a location that meets the growing conditions outlined above. Dig a hole that’s four times the width of the root ball of the plant.

Then ensure the hole is equally as deep. From there, sit the plant in the hole and fill it halfway with water.

Allow the water to absorb. Then backfill the hole. Once the soil is pressed firmly around the base of the plant, water the plant thoroughly again.

Finally, add a layer of mulch around the base of the plant to help retain moisture and provide a weed barrier.

The next method for growing summersweet is to propagate via cutting. In the early portion of summer, remove a four-inch cutting from a mature, healthy plant.

If there are any leaves at the base of the cutting, remove them. Dip the cut end of the cutting into rooting hormone and shake away any excess.

Plant the cutting in a pot which drains adequately and is filled with a well-draining growing medium. Wet the soil and wrap the container in plastic wrap to provide a greenhouse effect.

Check the soil daily as you never want it to dry out. In approximately six weeks, maybe a little longer, the plant should develop roots.

When durable, transplant the new summersweet plant outdoors in its permanent growing location.

The final method to growing summersweet is to propagate from seed. You may collect the seeds from a mature plant in the fall or purchase seeds.

You may start the seeds in spring or fall, and there’s no special storage needed for the seeds over winter (if not used in the fall).

When ready, fill a growing tray with a well-draining growing mixture. Press the seeds a ½ inch deep into the soil.

Sprinkle a layer of sand over the potting mixture. Lightly water the soil as you never want it to dry out but be mindful not to oversaturate the seeds as this could lead to rot.

Wrap the growing container in plastic wrap to provide a greenhouse effect. Then place the growing tray in an area where it will receive indirect light.

Once the seeds have sprouted and the plants seem durable, you may transplant them outdoors into their permanent growing location.

You now have three different ways to grow summersweet plant. Pick the method which works best for you and try your hand at raising this plant around your landscape.

Caring for the Summersweet Plant

The summersweet plant doesn’t require much care once planted and established. There are a few minor things you must do to ensure this plant’s success, but beyond this, it’s rather self-sufficient.

When growing summersweet, ensure you water the plant deeply. This should only occur during periods of drought as the plant should be able to thrive on rain from nature.

However, when times of drought arise, be sure to supply a thorough soaking at the time of watering to provide the water the plant needs.

This method also provides moisture to the ground surrounding the plant. When the plant needs more water, it’ll dig its roots deeper into the ground to retrieve it.

Not only does this provide moisture to the plant, without more work on your part, but it also encourages a deeper root system which leads to healthier plants.

You should fertilize summersweet in early spring each year. Apply a slow-release fertilizer meant for trees and shrubs. This should provide the nutrients the shrub needs to produce colorful blooms and remain healthy throughout the growing season.

Pruning isn’t necessary for this shrub, but you may deadhead the spent blooms as they fade. This will keep your plant healthier looking and also encourage more prolific blooming.

Lastly, when winter rolls around, help protect the plant’s root system by applying a layer of mulch. This will insulate the roots and help keep them from freezing during the colder portion of the year.

These are the few minor things that summersweet will need from you to remain healthy and vibrant over the years.

Garden Pests and Diseases Which Might Impact the Summersweet Plant

Our last topic to discuss when growing summersweet is how to keep it protected from natural threats around the garden.

The most common issue with pests are spider mites. They’re hard to spot, and you’ll typically notice their homes before you see them.

When you spot webs in your shrub, spray the bush forcefully with soapy water. This will dislodge the pests and their homes. You may also treat the plant with an insecticide.

Summersweet is typically disease-free. However, in the years with above-average amounts of rain, it’s common for this shrub to battle leaf spot.

The best way to fix this disease is to treat the plant with a fungicide. You can also prune the shrub to increase airflow throughout the plant as this will help water dry and avoid fungal issues on the foliage.

Not only is summersweet low-maintenance as far as care goes, but it’s also low-maintenance when battling pests and diseases. Keep an eye out for the two issues mentioned here, and your plants should remain in good health.

The summersweet shrub is a gem. It grows in areas where many plants won’t. It’s also low-maintenance and isn’t threatened by a variety of pests or diseases.

If you need a durable, low-maintenance shrub for your landscape, don’t overlook this option. Summersweet could be a simple way to add charm and color to a dull landscape.

Learn More About the Summersweet Plant

https://hgic.clemson.edu/factsheet/summersweet-clethra/

https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/clethra-alnifolia/

http://www.pnwplants.wsu.edu/PlantDisplay.aspx?PlantID=555

pink and white summersweet plants blooming

The post Growing and Caring for Summersweet Plant (Clethra alnifolia) appeared first on Gardening Channel.

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