Some consider Heptacodium miconoides, commonly called seven-son flower, a large shrub; others debate its status as a small tree. Call it what you like, as long as I can call one mine.
People who shop for all their plants in May miss out on some amazing plants whose charisma is not evident until summer or fall. Take seven-son flower for example.
In spring, glossy leaves, arranged in pairs, unfurl to densely cover its irregular branching structure. It is attractive, but not exciting enough to garner the attention of spring shoppers who pass it by on their way for redbuds, serviceberries and crabapples.
In late summer, seven-son flower shines in its first performance. Fragrant, tiny white flowers burst from whorls of swollen buds at the ends of branches. Each whorl typically contains seven flowers – that’s why it is commonly called seven-son flower.
The flowers continue to open for several weeks enveloping the tree in a cloud of white blossoms.
Butterflies and bees enjoy their sweet nectar.
The flowering stage of Heptacodium miconoides is pretty, but its showiest season is after flowering. The calyxes (the outermost petal-like leaves that form the outside of the flower) remain after the flowers fall, turning rosy pink and then darkening to reddish burgundy. Stunning!
In winter, after the branches have liberated their leaves, the exfoliating bark of seven-son flower is revealed. Resembling the bark of a river birch, its light brown bark peels off to expose the deep brown layer underneath with markings of cream, green, and golden orange.
Heptacodium miconoides grows best in full sun, but will adapt to part shade. It is not fussy about soil as long as it is not wet. A fast grower, it reaches up to 25 feet tall and 15 feet wide.
I have never pruned my seven-son flower but if it needs to be shaped, prune it in late winter before next summer’s flower buds have formed. I have not experienced suckering with mine either, but it can, reportedly, be a problem. If suckers do occur, prune them out.
Go ahead and shop for blooming beauties in the spring, but don’t forget to head back to your local garden center in summer and fall to check out the annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees that are available to keep your landscape in full color until the snow paints everything white.
Garden with me!