Clethra alnifolia – Summersweet


A medium-sized shrub valued for its fragrant spikes of white flowers in midsummer when little else is blooming. The flowers are also an important nectar source for beneficial insects. It will grow in very moist situations but does not do well in very dry soils. Spreads by underground stems to form a clump over time. Foliage turns a golden yellow in fall. In our area Summersweet is common near the lakes in Minnewaska State Park, often in association with Swamp Azalea (Rhododendron viscosum), but is largely absent from the Catskills. Also known as Sweet Pepperbush.

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Clethra family, Clethraceae

Photo by H. Zell, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Updated 12 March 2023

Additional information

Pot Size

2-Gallon, 3-Gallon, 5-Gallon