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Clethra alnifolia

Summer Sweet Bush / Sweet Pepper Bush

Summer Sweet is a vase-shaped shrub with bottle brush-like, 3-6" spikes of extremely fragrant, white blossoms. The flowers are an important nectar source for butterflies and hummingbirds. Brown capsules form later to feed the birds and other wildlife. Summer Sweet is unique in that will flower in shade. It has good fall color and a tidy winter appearance. It’s a good shrub for wet areas like rain gardens, or the waters edge. 


  • Snow white summer flowers are very fragrant
  • Bees, butterflies and hummingbirds enjoy the nectar
  • Many birds and mammals eat the fruit or seeds
  • Flowers bloom for 4-6 weeks in mid to late summer
  • Grows well in wet soil, will naturalize over time
  • Shrubby stems provide cover and nesting for wildlife
  • Will bloom in shade

Homeowner Growing and Maintenance Tips

Easy to grow in medium to wet, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. Will grow in heavier shade but not as vigorously. Prefers part shade and consistently moist to wet, acidic soils but adapts to a wide range of soil, moisture and light conditions. Spreads slowly by rhizomes.

5-7 Feet


6-8 Feet

USDA Hardiness Zone 3-9

Native Range

Swamps and moist woods within 100 miles of the Atlantic coast, from southern Maine to northern Florida and along the Gulf to east Texas.

Native Trivia

Vernal pools are small temporary pools of water that form from rainwater or snowmelts in the spring, and dry up during the summer. These are important shelters and breeding habitats for frogs, toads and salamanders.

"Butterflies and hummingbirds love the nectar and my bird and mammal friends love the seeds while I enjoy the cover."

Good Companions
Yellowroot (Xanthorhiza simplicissima), Cumberland Azalea (Rhododendron cumberlandense), Cumberland Azalea (Rhododendron cumberlandense)

Characteristics & Attributes

Plan Sub Group
  • Medium to Tall Shrubs
  • Filtered Shade
  • Morning Sun / Afternoon Shade
  • Sun
  • Acidic
  • Well-drained
  • Wide soil tolerance
Soil Moisture Preference
  • Average
  • Moist
  • Moist but well-drained
  • Wet
Attracts Wildlife
  • Beneficial insects
  • Butterflies
  • Hummingbirds
  • Reptiles
  • Songbirds
Bloom Time
  • Summer
Habitat Collection
  • Butterfly
  • Songbird
  • Wet Sun
Native Habitat
  • Coastal
  • Forest
  • Riparian, wetland
Foliage Color
  • Dark Green
  • Bog, water garden
  • Erosion control
  • Fragrant
  • Ground cover
  • Hedge, screen
  • Mass plant
  • Naturalizes
Native to
  • Alabama
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Mississippi
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Virginia