This deciduous shrub or small tree is native to western China and is a member of the small plant family Cletheracae that is distantly related to azaleas. The plant grows up to 15″ tall and has lanceolate leaves that are toothed, 2.5-6″ long, and dark blue green until turning orange to red in the fall. In summer, pink buds open to white bell-shaped flowers on dense, terminal, one-sided racemes 4-6″ long. The flowers are 1/2″ wide, fragrant, and attractive to butterfly and bees. Delavayi summersweet is valued for its fragrant flowers and is a good choice for beds and borders, as well as for woodland, water, pollinator, butterfly, fragrance, and woodland gardens. The genus name Clethra, , is from the Greek word klethra, meaning alder, and refers to the resemblance of the leaves to those of alders.  The specific epithet, delavayi, honors Abbee Delavay (1838-1895) a French missionary in China who collected thousands of new plants there.

Type: Flowering deciduous shrub or small tree

Outstanding Feature: Flowers

Form: Erect

Growth Rate: Moderate

Bloom: Dense, terminal one sided racemes of white fragrant flowers in summer

Size: 10-15′ H (up to 40′ in the wild)

Light: Part shade to full sun

Soil: Fertile, consistently moist, well-drained, slightly acidic

Hardiness: Zones 6-10

Care: Prune when needed

Pests and Diseases: None of significance

Propagation: Seed, softwood cuttings

Outstanding Selections: None available

Photo Credit: peganum, Wikimedia Commons

By Karen