Clethra alnifolia 'Sixteen Candles'

Tried and Trouble-free Recommended by 6 Professionals
Common Name: summersweet
Type: Deciduous shrub
Family: Clethraceae
Zone: 4 to 9
Height: 4.00 to 5.00 feet
Spread: 2.00 to 3.00 feet
Bloom Time: July to August
Bloom Description: Creamy white
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium to wet
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: 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 soils. Tolerates full shade. Promptly remove root suckers unless naturalized look is desired.

Noteworthy Characteristics

'Sixteen Candles' is a summersweet cultivar that is noted for its erect, candle-like flower spikes and compact size. It is a densely-branched, rounded, suckering deciduous shrub that typically grows 3-5' tall and features narrow, fluffy, bottlebrush-like, terminal spires (racemes to 6" long) of extremely fragrant, creamy white flowers which bloom on the current year's growth for approximately 4-6 weeks in mid-summer. Flower spires of the species may be erect, horizontal or arching, whereas those of this cultivar are, as the cultivar name suggests, more upright and candle-like. Toothed, ovate-oblong, glossy 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 which may persist well into winter. Flowers are very attractive to butterflies and bees. Somewhat unique among summer-flowering shrubs because of its 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 of 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.