Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day

A New Shrub for Spectacular Fall Bloom

septembre 17In full bloom at my place right now are two superb specimens of seven sons flower (Heptacodium miconioides). This is a large shrub or small tree. It will eventually reach up to 25 ft/7.5 m high by 9 to 15 feet/3-5 m wide, but you can keep it at about 6 to 9 ft (2-3 m) tall and wide with an occasional pruning. It is little known to gardeners because it was only discovered in China in 1990.

With its long, curved scimitar-shaped leaves, it has a beautiful appearance all summer, but is at its most striking in the fall when it is covered with fragrant white flowers (it’s a close relative of jasmine). After about a month in bloom, rosy red bracts replace the flowers to create a second show… in most regions. In my area, USDA zone 3, sadly this rarely happens: the gardening season is simply not long enough here (I’m expecting a dark frost later this week). Elsewhere, though, this “second blooming” is absolutely remarkable.

The leaves drop in late autumn without really changing color, but the plant’s season of interest continues, because the beige-colored bark peels off beautifully, creating a beautiful winter effect… at least on mature specimens. This effect is not so visible on younger shrubs.

The seven sons flower adapts to the most well-drained acid to slightly alkaline soils and prefers a sunny location. However, it seems happier in rich, moist soil, although well established plants will tolerate drought. Pruning, if necessary, is best done in the spring.

Every publication I see insists seven sons flower is hardy from zones 5 to 9, but I can assure you it is much hardier than that: mine came through nearly a week at -31˚F (-35˚C) last winter without losing a single twig and has been thriving here in USDA zone 3 for 13 years now.

Despite its recent introduction, you should be able to find the seven sons flower in any good nursery.

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

1 comment on “Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day

  1. Pingback: American Witch-Hazel: A Forgotten Fall Beauty – Laidback Gardener

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