Clethra alnifolia
Summer Sweet Bush

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Butterfly FriendlyRain GardenPart ShadeBird Friendly
Summer Sweet Bush
Clethra alnifolia

Summer Sweet is a vase-shaped shrub with bottle brush-like, 3-6" spikes of extremely fragrant, white blossoms. The flowers are an important nectar source for butterflies and hummingbirds. Brown capsules form later to feed the birds and other wildlife. Summer Sweet is unique in that will flower in shade. It has good fall color and a tidy winter appearance. It’s a good shrub for wet areas like rain gardens, or the waters edge. 

Snow white summer flowers are very fragrant
Bees, butterflies and hummingbirds enjoy the nectar
Many birds and mammals eat the fruit or seeds
Flowers bloom for 4-6 weeks in mid to late summer
Grows well in wet soil, will naturalize over time
Shrubby stems provide cover and nesting for wildlife
Will bloom in shade

Native Range

Swamps and moist woods within 100 miles of the Atlantic coast, from southern Maine to northern Florida and along the Gulf to east Texas.

Interesting Facts

Vernal pools are small temporary pools of water that form from rainwater or snowmelts in the spring, and dry up during the summer. These are important shelters and breeding habitats for frogs, toads and salamanders.


Easy to grow in medium to wet, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. Will grow in heavier shade but not as vigorously. Prefers part shade and consistently moist to wet, acidic soils but adapts to a wide range of soil, moisture and light conditions. Spreads slowly by rhizomes.

Mature Size: 5-7ft. Wide x 6-8ft. Tall

Hardiness Zone: 3-9

Sun Exposure: Part Shade

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