Clethra alnifolia 'Ruby Spice'

Tried and Trouble-free Recommended by 6 Professionals
Common Name: sweet pepperbush
Type: Deciduous shrub
Family: Clethraceae
Zone: 4 to 8
Height: 4.00 to 6.00 feet
Spread: 3.00 to 5.00 feet
Bloom Time: July to August
Bloom Description: Rose pink
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium to wet
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Hedge, Naturalize, Rain Garden
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Leaf: Good Fall
Attracts: Butterflies
Tolerate: Heavy Shade, Erosion, Clay Soil, Wet Soil


Easily grown in average, medium to wet soils in full sun to part shade. Prefers part shade and consistently moist, acidic, sandy soils. Soils should not be allowed to dry out. Tolerates clay soils. Tolerates full shade. Promptly remove root suckers unless naturalized look is desired. Propagate by cuttings.

Noteworthy Characteristics

‘Ruby Spice’ is a summersweet cultivar that is most noted for its fragrant rose-pink flowers that bloom in late summer. It was discovered in 1992 as a sport of C. alnifolia ‘Pink Spire’. It is a densely-branched, rounded, suckering, deciduous shrub that typically grows 4-6’ (less frequently to 8’) tall and features narrow, cylindrical, bottlebrush-like, terminal panicles (racemes to 6” long) of extremely fragrant rose pink flowers that bloom on the current year’s growth for approximately 4-6 weeks in July and August. Serrate, obovate, dark green leaves (to 4” long) turn a variable but generally attractive yellow/golden brown in fall. Flowers give way to dark brown seed capsules that may persist well into winter. Flowers are very attractive to butterflies and bees. Summersweets are somewhat unique among late summer-flowering shrubs because of their ability to bloom in shady locations.


No serious insect or disease problems.

Garden Uses

Mass or group in lawns, foundations or shrub borders. Good flowering shrub for shade or woodland gardens. Also appropriate for moist soils along stream banks or pond/water garden peripheries. Also may be naturalized in cottage gardens, wild gardens or naturalized areas. Plant near a patio to enjoy the fragrant late summer bloom.