Clethra alnifolia. (Sweet pepperbush)
Clethra alnifolia

Zone: 3 to 9

Soil: Sand to clay

Light: Full sun to part sun

Bloom colour: White (or pink)

Bloom period: Mid to late summer

Height: 3 to 10 feet

Moisture: Moist to wet

Attracts: Wide range of wildlife

Notes: Sweet pepperbush is a widely available shrub in eastern North America because it is a standout garden plant. It also provides a hotbed of activity for a range of pollinators including butterflies and beneficial wasps. It is not native to Ontario but is found in Canada in Nova Scotia. The plant is found in coastal areas from Maine to Florida.

The white flowers of Clethra are borne on clusters of long racemes. 'Hummingbird' is an exceptional cultivar that is incredibly popular in large ornamental gardens, where it can be planted en masse for a striking white carpet effect. It is only 2-3 feet high. These types of gardens make for efficient foraging by pollinators, which are often in abundance.

The plant attracts hummingbirds when in flower and seed-eating birds when the seedheads mature.

If you are going to plant a single specimen, go with a larger cultivar or the true species. The plant is easy to grow because it tolerates a wide range of conditions including part-shade, acidity and salt. It will survive dry conditions but grows best with plenty of moisture. Sand is preferred over clay as long as a regular watering regime is provided. Smaller specimens will grow well in containers and they can be cut back when needed.



Clethra alnifolila - Sweet pepperbush
Silver spotted skipper on Clethra alnifolia 'Hummingbird'
Cicada wasp Monobia quadridens on Clethra alnifolia
Cicada wasp Four toothed mason wasp
Buckeye butterfly on Clethra
The buckeye is surely one of the most beautiful butterflies in North America. It can often be found on Clethra alnifolia.