Clethra, Summersweet, Sweet Pepper Bush 'Ruby Spice'

Clethra alnifolia

Family: Clethraceae
Genus: Clethra (KLEE-thra) (Info)
Species: alnifolia (al-nee-FOH-lee-uh) (Info)
Cultivar: Ruby Spice
View this plant in a garden



Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Sun Exposure:

Sun to Partial Shade



Foliage Color:

Unknown - Tell us


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)

Where to Grow:

Unknown - Tell us



Bloom Color:


Bloom Characteristics:

This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds

Flowers are fragrant

Bloom Size:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Time:

Late Spring/Early Summer

Mid Summer

Late Summer/Early Fall

Other details:

Unknown - Tell us

Soil pH requirements:

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:

Unknown - Tell us


This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:

Adana, Adana(2 reports)

Madison, Alabama

Pelham, Alabama

Vincent, Alabama

Anchorage, Alaska

Sherwood, Arkansas

Sacramento, California

Stamford, Connecticut

Westport, Connecticut

Ocean View, Delaware

Rehoboth Beach, Delaware

Bokeelia, Florida

Decatur, Georgia

Winterville, Georgia

Chicago, Illinois

Hanna City, Illinois

Iowa City, Iowa

Hancock, Maine

Beverly, Massachusetts

Feeding Hills, Massachusetts

Mashpee, Massachusetts

Wellfleet, Massachusetts

Wrentham, Massachusetts

Blissfield, Michigan

East Tawas, Michigan

Saint Cloud, Minnesota

Saint Paul, Minnesota

Hudson, New Hampshire

Haddonfield, New Jersey

Averill Park, New York

Beacon, New York

East Setauket, New York

Elba, New York

Nineveh, New York

North Tonawanda, New York

Port Washington, New York

Poughkeepsie, New York

Elizabeth City, North Carolina

Pittsboro, North Carolina

Raleigh, North Carolina

Sylva, North Carolina

Akron, Ohio

Canton, Ohio

Cincinnati, Ohio

Fredericktown, Ohio


Bradford, Pennsylvania

Downingtown, Pennsylvania

Mountain Top, Pennsylvania

Quakertown, Pennsylvania

Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania

Wyoming, Pennsylvania

College Grove, Tennessee

Collierville, Tennessee

Maryville, Tennessee

Murfreesboro, Tennessee

Quechee, Vermont

Orlean, Virginia

Richmond, Virginia

Concrete, Washington

East Port Orchard, Washington

Kalama, Washington

Parkwood, Washington

Port Orchard, Washington

Vancouver, Washington

Racine, Wisconsin

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On May 17, 2015, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

The July flowers are the deepest pink Clethra yet, though I find the color is still insipid. As with the species, the sweet fragrance is lovely and carries well on the air. Blooms for about a month.

Late to leaf out in spring, the leaves turn a good yellow in autumn. Spreads slowly by suckers.

Adaptable to sun or shade (blooms best in sun). A wetland plant in the wild, it tolerates poor drainage but also drought once established---best with consistent moisture.


On May 17, 2015, kayeinMI from Saginaw, MI wrote:

I planted a Summersweet last year (2014). The fragrance was phenomenal! Now we are in mid May 2015 and I haven't seen any leaves even beginning to show. Is this normal? I am in Michigan.


On Jul 7, 2014, mastiffgirl from Pittsboro, NC wrote:

I saw these for the first time last year. I bought five from three different nurseries, all of which looked to be at death's door. They took forever to leaf out in the spring but when they did they were extremely strong and healthy, with lots of new growth, so they are certainly survivors. It's July 6 and they are getting ready to bloom.


On Jul 16, 2013, bobbieberecz from Concrete, WA wrote:

I planted my first pink spire 5 years ago. It got full hot sun for a few years while waiting for the shrub border to grow and produce some afternoon shade. Though I watered it carefully the first year or two it's dried out completely between waterings the past few years. My soil gets very wet with the winter rains in NW Washington state but like talcum powder in the summer. Though I've only started mulching, this plant has survived all my past abuses and rewarded me with wonderfully scented flowers each year. I do notice the scent is stronger when I'm careful about watering. Just planted my 2nd one (Ruby Spice) this year in mostly shade. So far it seems happy.


On Jun 11, 2013, StuKin from Stamford, CT wrote:

Marvelous fragrance makes this plant a winner. Easily propagated from the side shoots that a mature plant sends up. Flowers best in sun or partial shade. Likes moist soil with the root area shaded to keep it cool.


On Aug 12, 2008, passiflora_pink from Central, AL (Zone 8a) wrote:

Blooms mid summer, when spring flowers have faded. Attracts pollinators of all sorts. Sweet perfume is delightful from several feet away. New growth comes from roots so can be used on a bank to help with erosion.


On Aug 18, 2006, soulbloom from Richmond, VA wrote:

Neat bush with attractive fragrance. I have this planted in my backyard in partial shade. This is its first year and it had medium growth.


On Aug 10, 2006, alph from Wrentham, MA wrote:

The last to put out its leaves in the Spring in my yard, it pays back the late foliage with beautiful unusually deep pink spires that fill the yard with a wonderful scent. This plant goes in all lighting conditions from full shade to full sun. Can also be grown at the seashore. Leaves are luscious deep green turning bright yellow in the fall. Branches have an interesting sinuous growth habit. A winner all-round.


On May 26, 2005, sterhill from Atlanta, GA (Zone 7b) wrote:

Atlanta - I have had this plant in full sun - full, HOT, afternoon sun - for two or three years and it has done well here. I did not know it wanted to be moist and did not water it, as it exceeded the reach of my hose. It still did pretty well, but now that I have a new 100' hose and KNOW now it wants more water, it is looking much fuller and happier! Probably the blooms will last longer also.


On May 11, 2005, braun06 from Irving, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

I have been quite pleased with this cultivar. Though late to leaf out it has beautiful dark blue green leaves. The plant starts flowering in early to mid july here in Illinois. It continually blooms for a month. The flowers may not be extremely fragrant at first but eventually develop a wonderful spicy sweet aroma that carries throughout the yard. These shrubs are also very useful for some excellent yellow fall color that is not too common in shrubs. I have planted this shrub in places that offer afternoon shade or full sun on other plaves on a steep slope. Have not noticed any leaf scorch or wilting and supplied limited irrigation during dry periods and probably wouldnt be necessary at all in my yard.


On Aug 31, 2001, smiln32 from Oklahoma City, OK (Zone 7a) wrote:

Easily grown in average, medium wet to wet, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. Adaptive to wide range of soil, moisture and light conditions. Prefers part shade and consistently moist to wet, acidic soils. Tolerates full shade, however. Spreads slowly by rhizomes


On Mar 9, 2001, Terry from Murfreesboro, TN (Zone 7a) wrote:

Fragrant deep pink flowers on glossy green foliage appear in late summer. Grows naturally in wet places; plant in moist acid soil amended with organic matter. Grows best in partial shade. A favorite of butterflies and hummingbirds. Introduced by Broken Arrow Nursery in CT.

Slow to medium growth rate. If necessary, prune in early spring.