Summer sweet (Clethra alnifolia) is a star for our Chesapeake gardens. This deciduous shrub blooms in the heat of summer with fantastic fragrance. Summer sweet grows and blooms with white or pink flowers in full sun or part shade. It’s easy care and rarely needs pruning. It would make a handsome hedge. Bees and butterflies love it. It tolerates clay soils.
Whether you plant it in sun or shade, most sources say it loves moist soil. That said, this one is planted beneath several Eastern red cedars and is doing well. Whether Summer sweet is grown in moist or moderate soils and the amount of sun it receives will determine its size. The Summer sweet shrub planted under trees in drier conditions is about 4 feet tall whereas the pink Summer sweet above in full sun and moist soils is 8′ tall.
This shrub is really a standout. It adds habitat value, vigorously flowers and provides gold fall color. For smaller gardens, compact varieties are available. Summer sweet is also sometimes called sweet pepper bush. It really is superb.
The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center fact sheet on Summer sweet.
A list of cultivars of Summer sweet from the Piedmont Master Gardners. Please scroll to the bottom of the page.