Q. How can I use Clethra alnifolia as a landscape plant?
Clethra alnifolia, also known as summersweet, is a unique plant that is native to much of the eastern United States and fully hardy in the New York area. This shrub performs many useful functions in a landscape because it blooms with white, sweetly scented, panicles in late summer, after many other shrubs have stopped blooming. It is relatively small (generally 3 to 4 feet) and dense, if somewhat untidy in habit, and manages nicely in a shady location. It is typically immune to the predation of deer and displays a nice golden to russet leaf color in autumn.
Clethra alnifolia can be used as an informal hedging or border plant or massed as an accent in a shady spot, peeking over the top of lower growing, tidier border shrubs. The shrub's size and character are well suited to a small, informal or cottage style garden. Its drawbacks are that it leafs quite late in spring and can present a bare and untidy note if used in too central a location. It is not uniform in its habit and may need light pruning after flowering to maintain an attractive shape.
Tolerant of many soil conditions, Clethra needs moisture and prefers acidic, sandy soil in partial shade.
Courtesy of the NYBG Plant Information Service