What's in Bloom?

Seven-Son Flower

09/01/2013 - 09/30/2013

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 Seven-Son Flower

Botanical Name: Heptacodium miconioides  

Attributes: For gardeners that would like to have a flowering shrub that has not been planted by their neighbors, Heptacodium miconioides offers that opportunity.  Imported from Zhejang Province in China in 1980 by the Arnold Arboretum it is now occasionally available from local nurseries.   This is a flowering shrub which grows well in zones 5 to 8 (Memphis is zone 7).  It is somewhat reminiscent of a Deutzia or Forsythia in form with arching branches, but more open and picturesque in appearance.   In China, the plants are said to grow to as much as 25’ tall, and half that in spread, but it is doubtful that anyone knows for sure how large they will grow in the United States.  The plants at the Arnold Arboretum in Boston, Massachusetts are reported to be about 10’ tall.   Foliage is a medium green, simple, opposite, 3 to 6” long and 2 to 2 ½” wide.  Stems are squarish, rich brown and exfoliating – somewhat like a crepe myrtle – which definitely gives winter interest when the leaves drop in late fall.   Flowers appear in late summer and persist for a long time.  Our Seven-Sons at the Memphis Botanic Garden are still blooming and also have seed pods at this time.   The individual flowers are small, star-shaped, and borne on large panicles that are made up of a whorl of 6 flowers terminated by a seventh, from which its common name is derived.  The seed capsules are a rose-red and are fairly showy, especially in combination with the white blooms: a very interesting late season display.  

Growing Tips:  Seven-Son Flower will grow well in sun to light shade.  It is quite tolerant of a wide range of conditions, but does best in a fairly moist, but well-drained, soil enriched by organic matter.    Since flowering is late summer and fall, any pruning done should be accomplished after blooming in fall or before bud break in early spring.   Other than removal of dead wood or minor shaping to improve form, I would keep pruning to a minimum.   Heptacodium should not be planted in a situation where control of its size is an issue.   Planted in a good soil, fertilization can consist of a tree-and-shrub fertilizer once a year in early spring.   Planting is best done in spring or fall, but with attention to watering, container-grown specimens can be planted during the growing season.  

Landscape value:  Because Heptacodium miconioides flowers in autumn, I would try to pick a site where fall foliage color would complement it.  The autumn colors of dogwoods or maples would look great nearby.    This is a shrub that should be used as a large lawn specimen or in the back of a mixed shrub border or screen.  Seven-Son Flower is definitely not a plant for a small space.  

 Can be seen growing in the parking lot of the Memphis Botanic Garden, southwest of the Goldsmith Garden Center.

Article submitted by:  Rick Pudwell, Director of Horticulture, Memphis Botanic Garden

Photos submitted by:  Sherri McCalla, Horticulture Assistant, Memphis Botanic Garden                    .


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