One Sweet Clethra

Clethra has long been one of my favorite plants. I’m a sucker for fragrance and few plants pack more olfactory punch than Summer Sweet (Clethra alnifolia). If you’re a subscriber to my blog then you know that I’ve been breeding shrubs for about eight years now. The first plant introduced out of our breeding program was Summer Wine Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius). Since then I’ve introduced two new reblooming Hydrangea called Let’s Dance Moonlight and Let’s Dance Starlight, a compact Hypericum called Sunny Boulevard, Chardonnay Pearls Deutzia, Fine Wine Weigela, Ghost Weigela, and Incrediball Hydrangea. Vanilla Spice™ (Clethra alnifolia ‘Caleb’) is one of our newest introductions and at the moment is only available at wholesale as small liners. If all goes well you will see it at retail in the spring of 2010. Vanilla Spice, like all Clethra, has wonderfully fragrant flowers in late summer. Its foliage is dark, glossy and very attractive. Most remarkably this plant has flowers that are larger than typical. Each flower is roughly 30 to 50% larger than normal.

Vanilla Spice® Clethra

This native beauty is best when planted in a location where you can best enjoy its wonderful fragrance. I like to plant Clethra is large blocks to increase the fragrance potential. Ruby Spice is a special cultivar with reddish-pink flowers, so Vanilla Spice with its white flowers makes a nice companion for this favorite. While white flowers are not as exciting dark pink flowers, I am partial to white flowers. They simply show up better than red in garden, especially in the evening when I am typically in the garden.

Stay tuned, or better yet subscribe to my blog and have it emailed every time I post (Just click here). I will be sharing more new introductions over the next few posts.


  1. Anonymous1:10 PM

    I have signed up to subscribe to your "Hunt". I am not an expert gardener, so I don't have access to help you in your hunt, but I definitely am interested in seeing what your recommendations are. I just happened to order the Clethra Vanilla Spice this spring from Wayside Gardens, and in my Internet search for info on this plant, I found your page. It's great to find some extra "expert" advice when one is not an expert.

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  3. Anonymous2:13 PM

    Wha zones are these hard in?This sounds wonderful to plant in my garden bleow the sunporch where, when opening the windows could smell them- we are between zone 3b-4b on the USDA hardiness zone map

  4. I bought a Ruby Spice last fall, hope it made it thru the winter, and 6 ghost weigelas, can't wait till they flower!

  5. Anonymous1:28 PM

    What pairs well with clethra? I purchased several plants but I don't know what to plant with it - I have 2 white and 2 pink plants.

  6. The beauty of white flowered plants is that they go well with every other color. Choose what you like best. If you like Bleeding Hearts - plant Bleeding Hearts.

  7. Anonymous7:34 AM

    the leaves are curling on my clethra vanilla spice plant
    But it is still growing and getting flowers. Does anyone know why


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