Clethra Barbinervis

Japanese Summersweet, Summersweet

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Plant Code: CLBA

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An antidote to December! Each season ushers in something new on this extraordinary deciduous shrub/tree. Horizontal finger-like white fragrant flower clusters open from pearl-shaped buds highlighting the dark green glossy foliage. Autumn foliage varies; sometimes bright yellow or occasionally red is adorned with brown seed capsules. The winter garden concludes with a grand finale with a most striking feature - lovely exfoliating bark displaying patches of cinnamon and gray.

Clethra Barbinervis is a trouble-free shrub or small tree perfect for moist areas along streams, near ponds or water gardens. Good fall color and incredible winter interest.


Type: Shrubs
Height: Tall 10-20'
Spacing: Plant 10-15' apart
Bloom Time: Mid-Summer to Late Summer
Sun-Shade: Full Sun to Half Sun / Half Shade
Zones: 5-8   Find Your Zone
Soil Condition: Normal
Flower: White
Accent: White
Pot Size: 3.5" square x 4" deep

Features to Note

  • For a Slope or Bank
  • Beneficial for Pollinators
  • Attracts Butterflies
  • Fragrant
  • Good for Hedge
  • Attracts Hummingbirds
  • Seaside/Salt Tolerant
  • Wet Site Tolerant
  • Winter Interest

Clethra General Information

Clethra are upright deciduous shrubs. Foliage turns from deep green to yellow in fall. Will handle both wet and windy seaside locations. All have sweetly fragrant flowers, and prefer damp organic soil. Late to wake in the spring.

Clethra Plant Care

No pruning necessary, but shape in spring if desired. Older specimens can be freshened by removing some of the oldest wood as flowering is generally better on younger stems.