A branch covered with fragrant white flowers—that’s a sure sign of spring. Well, unless you’re talking about seven-son flower, in which case it’s a sign of fall. This tall deciduous shrub, which hails from western China, bursts into bloom at the end of the growing season. Even better, the tiny, creamy-white flowers are followed by very bright purple-red fruits and equally showy calyces (something like a petal). Seven-son flower was named the 2011 Shrub of the Year by the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum and a Plant of Merit by Missouri Botanical Garden Kemper Center for Home Gardening.
Common name: Seven-son flower, northern crepe myrtle
Botanical name: Heptacodium miconioides
Plant type: Deciduous shrub
Zones: 5 to 9
Height: 15 to 20 feet
• Sun: Full sun
• Soil: Prefers average and well-drained but tolerates a wide range, including dry, poor, and salty
• Moisture: Average
• Mulch: Mulch to help keep soil moist.
• Pruning: May be pruned to a single trunk.
• Fertilizer: None needed.
• By cuttings and seeds
Pests and diseases
• Not typically bothered by insects or diseases.
• Bees and butterflies like the late-season blossoms of seven-son flower.
• Peeling brown bark is very attractive in winter, so plant seven-son flower where you can appreciate it during both fall and winter.
• The natural form of seven-son flower is an arching, multistemmed shrub, but it can be trained as a single-trunked small tree.
All in the family
• The genus Heptacodium is a small one. It contains only seven-son flower and possibly one other plant. Seven-son flower is increasingly rare in its native range of western China. At the same time, it is becoming more common in cultivation.
• Caprifoliaceae, the honeysuckle family, contains many familiar garden plants, including bush honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera), weigela, and trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens).
Where to buy
• Accents for Home and Garden, Milton, DE, 302-684-8092, www.accentsforhomeandgarden.com
• ForestFarm, Willliams, OR, 541-846-7269, www.forestfarm.com.
• Plant and Gnome, Charleston, WV, 304-881-7037, www.plantandgnome.com
(Text by Elizabeth Noll, photo of Heptacodium miconioides courtesy of Nebraska Statewide Arboretum.)