Plant of the Week: VANILLA SPICE® Summersweet

Variety is the spice of life!

How many times have you heard that or even said it yourself? Maybe because it’s true.

We can all get in a rut, whether it’s what to make for dinner or what to use in a landscape design. I’m all for the tried and true, but it’s good to try new things.

If you’ve never used summersweet (Clethra) before, give it a try. It’s hardy, deer resistant and will tolerate some tough conditions, including wet soils and clay, not to mention shade.

Maybe you already use and like summersweet – that’s great! How about trying a different variety, like Vanilla Spice®?

Summersweet is a very appealing species that is native to North America. Pollinators love it for its flowers, and so do humans. We don’t feed from them like butterflies do, but we do love that sweet summer fragrance. Both humans and pollinators need some fresh blooms in the garden by August.

While dwarf varieties are commonly used for landscaping, sometimes a larger (3-6′) plant is a better choice. It can be seen at the back of the border or used as more of a hedge. Vanilla Spice® isn’t just larger in plant size – it’s got bigger flowers, too. The florets can be twice the size of others. It’s a big impact plant in every way.

Hardy in USDA 4-9, it will grow in full sun or part shade. Just be sure it’s getting enough water!


It’s been a crazy year for all of us, but students are having a particularly tumultuous 2020.

HRI can make it a little easier for some lucky students: there is scholarship money available. If you know a horticulture student, please be sure they know about this opportunity. The deadline for applications is September 10, so don’t wait!

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