Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Summersweet, Sweet Pepper Bush
Clethra alnifolia

Family: Clethraceae
Genus: Clethra (KLEE-thra) (Info)
Species: alnifolia (al-nee-FOH-lee-uh) (Info)

Synonym:Clethra alnifolia var. tomentosa
Synonym:Clethra tomentosa

9 vendors have this plant for sale.

22 members have or want this plant for trade.

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6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)

4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)

USDA Zone 3b: to -37.2 C (-35 F)
USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)
USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)
USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

Sun Exposure:
Sun to Partial Shade


Bloom Color:
Pale Pink
White/Near White

Bloom Time:
Late Spring/Early Summer
Mid Summer
Late Summer/Early Fall


Other details:
This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds
Flowers are fragrant
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Soil pH requirements:
5.1 to 5.5 (strongly acidic)
5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From softwood cuttings
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall
From seed; winter sow in vented containers, coldframe or unheated greenhouse
By simple layering
By serpentine layering

Seed Collecting:
Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds
Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored

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There are a total of 31 photos.
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4 positives
1 neutral
1 negative

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive Rickwebb On Jan 3, 2014, Rickwebb from Downingtown, PA wrote:

One of my favorite shrubs! I have seen it in its native habitat in the draining wet, acid, sandy soils of Delaware and southern New Jersey where it does sucker alot. In average well-drained soils of most landscapes it does not go crazy suckering. It only does it some, and it is easy to propagate from thise few suckers. It has fragrant flowers in July and August loved by pollinators. It has good yellow fall color. It is a clean plant, not twiggy messy as many popular deciduous shrubs as honeysuckle, weigela, or deutzia.

Positive laineygirl On Jun 13, 2013, laineygirl from Mountain Top, PA wrote:

I have had a fine experience with an older cultivar named 'rosea' here in zone 5. It stays within limits probably because it receives less than half a day's worth of sun, and maybe because of our more northern climate.

Negative AnitaEdge On Oct 20, 2012, AnitaEdge from Fayetteville, NC wrote:

This shrub is beautiful when it is blooming, and it keeps a compact form if pruned every fall after blooming. But it is very invasive. New plants are coming up all around the shrub, under my house and throughout my yard. I pull them up, but they keep coming back. They are coming from the root system of this shrub. The sooner I get rid of this shrub, and all of its roots, the better I'll feel.

Positive Sarahskeeper On Aug 5, 2010, Sarahskeeper from Brockton, MA (Zone 6a) wrote:

This plant will catch your nose before you see it if you're in low lying woods. Heavenly.

Positive patp On Aug 24, 2006, patp from Summerville, SC (Zone 8a) wrote:

We discovered this native plant growing at the woodline. It was a straggly plant but a few lovely racemes caught our attention, and my husband eventually moved it to a backyard flowerbed where it has rewarded us with lush growth and many gorgeous, fragrant mid-July flowers. It's 5' tall and has spreads by underground runners. Bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds visit the flowers; fruits are eaten by birds and small mammals. It thrives in wet, acidic soil. I had confused this plant with Itea virginica, but the experts at DG's ID forum convinced me otherwise based on the bloom time.

Neutral smiln32 On May 25, 2005, smiln32 from Oklahoma City, OK (Zone 7a) wrote:

Moderate growth. Flower spikes are white and last a long time. Attractive to butterflies and bees.

Only reaches a height of 5'. Does well in partial shade. Likes moisture.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
Orlando, Florida
Tampa, Florida
Atlanta, Georgia
Winterville, Georgia
Glen Ellyn, Illinois
Terre Haute, Indiana
Brockton, Massachusetts
Wayland, Massachusetts
Blissfield, Michigan
Manchester, New Hampshire
Frenchtown, New Jersey
Baldwinsville, New York
Carmel, New York
Croton On Hudson, New York
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Fayetteville, North Carolina
Parkton, North Carolina
Fredericktown, Ohio
Columbia, Pennsylvania
Downingtown, Pennsylvania
Mountain Top, Pennsylvania
Conway, South Carolina
Summerville, South Carolina
Nashville, Tennessee
Bellingham, Washington

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