Small Summersweet Plants – Selecting Dwarf Summersweet Plant Types

Image by Katja Schulz

By Darcy Larum, Landscape Designer

An Eastern United States native, summersweet (Clethra alnifolia) is a must-have in the butterfly garden. Its sweetly scented blooms also bear a hint of spicy pepper, resulting in its common name of sweet pepperbush. With heights of 5-8 feet (1.5-2.4 m.) tall and the plant’s suckering habit, not every garden or landscape has the space necessary for a full size summersweet. Fortunately, dwarf summersweet varieties are available. Let’s learn about these dwarf summersweet plant types.

About Small Summersweet Plants

Also commonly known as hummingbird plant, the fragrant white flower spikes of summersweet draw hummingbirds and butterflies to the garden. When the mid-late summer blooms fade, the plant produces seeds that provide food for birds throughout winter.

Summersweet grows best in part shade to shade. It also prefers consistently moist soils and cannot survive drought. Because of summersweet’s preference for moist soils and its habit of spreading by dense rhizomes, it is efficiently used for erosion control along the banks of waterways. Small summersweet plants can also be used as foundation plantings, borders or specimen plants.

While summersweet is a favorite of birds and pollinators, it is seldom bothered by deer or rabbits. This, plus its preference of slightly acidic soils, makes summersweet an excellent choice for woodland gardens. In summer, the foliage of summersweet is glossy green, but in autumn it turns a brilliant yellow, drawing attention to dark, shady spots of the landscape.

Summersweet is a slow growing deciduous shrub that is hardy in zones 4-9. It may be necessary to control the plant’s suckering habit or prune it to shape. Pruning should be done in late winter or early spring.

Dwarf Summersweet Varieties

Below are common types of dwarf summersweet that make perfect additions to the garden landscape:

  • Hummingbird – height 30-40 inches (76-101 cm.)
  • Sixteen Candles – height 30-40 inches (76-101 cm.)
  • White Dove – height 2-3 feet (60-91cm.)
  • Sugartina – height 28-30 inches (71-76 cm.)
  • Crystaltina – height 2-3 feet (60-91cm.)
  • Tom’s Compact – height 2-3 feet (60-91cm.)

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