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July Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Clethra, Summersweet, Sweet Pepper Bush

Clethra alnifolia 'Ruby Spice'
Blooming in the heat of summer with temperatures hovering near 100 degrees is Clethra alnifolia. Also known as Sweet Pepper Bush or Summersweet, Clethra attracts many pollinators with its honeyscented blooms of pink or white. Clethra is a deciduous blooming shrub native to the Eastern United States. I'm a little late with this post, since our Clethras all bloomed earlier in July and have now finished blooming.

Because I love all things pink, my favorite Clethra is Ruby Spice. Vivid pink bloom spikes adorn the tips of almost every stem in late July or August. Ruby Spice Clethra is a tall shrub, reaching up to 8 feet tall at maturity.

Clethra 'Hummingbird'
If you prefer white blooms, Clethra Hummingbird is a popular choice a lake at Callaway Gardens. 
Hummingbird Clethra encircles the edge of Hummingbird Lake behind the Discovery Center. This shrub has pure white bottlebrush blooms spikes about 3 inches long. The fragrant blooms which smell kind of spicy attract pollinators from a great distance.


Another white bloomer is Clethra Sixteen Candles, selected and named by horticulturist Michael Dirr from the University of Georgia. This Clethra is so named because when in bloom its upright flowers resemble candles on a birthday cake. These blooms are up to 6 inches long! Due to its compact habit, this one grows well in containers so it would be great on a patio or sunny porch where the blooms and their fragrance could be better enjoyed.
Clethra 'Sixteen Candles'

No matter the flower color, butterflies and bumble bees love the nectar produced by Clethra blooms. I'm watching to see if our honeybees visit the blooms too.

Clethra needs regular water to grow well. In its natural environment it is found growing on the banks of a creek or lake. Full sun makes the plant bloom prolificly in the latter part of summer. You'll want to be able to reach the plants with a hose when summer drought arrives. 

Clethra can be grown literally all over the United States, since it is hardy in USDA Zones 4 - 9.

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