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The Plant Guide

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Cinnamon clethra

Clethra acuminata

KLETH-rah ah-kew-min-AY-tah Audio

Larger in all respects than common sweet pepperbush ( Clethra alnifolia ), this sizable shrub or small understory tree grows 8 to 12 feet tall and wide. In early summer, long, slender racemes composed of small ivory flowers appear, then give way to peppercorn-shaped seed capsules that swoop out from the branch tips in fall. About the same time, lance-shaped leaves become a glowing golden yellow before falling to reveal the reddish brown bark. The bark peels in small, irregular patches in the fashion of sycamores ( Plantus occidentalis ) to expose a dusty gray under-bark. Cinnamon clethra is a good choice for a woodland garden, where the tiered branches and elegant stems look captivating against new fallen snow.

Noteworthy CharacteristicsNative to rich mountain woods and streamsides in the southern Appalachians from Pennsylvania to Georgia.

CareProvide full sun to light shade and moist soil. It benefits from more shade farther south.

PropagationRoot cuttings in early summer, or start seeds in containers outdoors in spring or fall.

ProblemsGenerally trouble-free, but fungal dieback and root rot sometimes affect plants.

  • Genus : Clethra
  • Zones : 5, 6, 7, 8
  • Plant Height : 6 to 10 feet
  • Plant Width : 6 to 10 feet
  • Bloom Time : Early Summer
  • Characteristics : Fragrant Flowers, Interesting Bark, Showy Fall Foliage
  • Light : Full Sun to Partial Shade
  • Maintenance : Low
  • Moisture : Medium Moisture
  • Plant Type : Shrubs
  • Plant Seasonal Interest : Summer Interest
  • Flower Color : White
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