CLETHRA OR SWEET PEPPERBUSH (Clethra alnifolia)
Height: 3 to 5 feet
Spread: 4 to 6 feet
Bloom Time: July to August
Bloom Description: White
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Suggested Use: Hedge or Natural Area
Flower: Showy and Fragrant
Tolerate: Wet Soils, Clay Soils, Heavy Shade
Attracts: Butterflies & Honey Bees
Use: Winter interest and pollinators
No matter which of its several names you call it by - clethra, summersweet, or sweet pepper bush – this little shrub is a powerhouse in the garden. One of the showiest and most fragrant shrubs it is a great asset to any garden, landscape, or naturalized area. When in bloom the fragrance can carry for a long distance and has a very sweet smell that will fill the area.
This choice native shrub was prized in Europe in the 1730s. The Quaker John Bartram sold this plant more than any other species. When Thomas Jefferson lived in Paris in 1786, he requested that clethra be sent to him. He longed to smell the sweet fragrance of the plant and thought the introduction of the plant into French gardens would symbolically help solidify the relationship between American and France.
Clethra hosts locally 10 varieties of butterflies and moths including the Large Lace Border and Wooly Worms.