Sweet pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia)

Sweet pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia) is a deciduous shrub with the potential to reach 8 feet tall and 6 feet wide. Plan to prune annually, late fall to early spring, to maintain a shorter height. Sweet pepperbush is native to North America where it is found growing in moist conditions such as in damp wooded areas or along streams. Sweet pepperbush is winter hardy in USDA planting zones 4 through 9. With its ability to grow in damp areas, you do not have to be concerned about planting in an area that does not drain well, like in a swale. Plant in full sun to partial shade.


The white or pink blooms of sweet pepperbush, which display in a spear-like fashion, are highly fragrant and 3 to 5 inches long. Expect to see bees, hummingbirds and butterflies during the almost six weeks the shrub is in bloom in July and August. The dark green leaves turn yellow in the fall.


Sweet pepperbush can be used in landscape design as an single specimen focal point, in a groups of odd numbers, or planted in a row, about 4 feet apart, to create a privacy fence. The expanding root system of sweet pepperbush makes it suitable to help control hillside erosion.