Sometimes, you come across a plant with a name so intriguing, you just have to find out what it is all about. Some are easy to figure out, some are not and this one is one of the latter. The plant is native to China and was first discovered by the western countries in1907. The tree/shrub became popular in the 1980, but is still underused to the point where most people will not be able to recognize it, making it a focal point of the garden.
Seven sons tree(Heptacodium miconioides) is actually a shrub that grows up to 15 feet tall with a spread of up to 7 feet. Leaves are 3 to 5 inches long and 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 inches wide. Take a look at the leaves of a forsythia or honeysuckle and you will have a good idea of what these look like. The plant produces creamy white, fragrant flowers that grow in clusters of seven, one of the features that gives the plant its name. The flowers bloom from August through September. When the flowers are done the calyx-the small petals that protect the flowers-turn a bright cherry red and stay on the plant until it gets hit by a hard frost. The flowers also leave behind seven berries on each stem, another source of the name. The red-brown bark is another feature and when it peels away in thin strips, creating a striped pattern with the inner wood, it adds a three-dimensional feature.
Plant the seven sons tree in full sun and a soil that ranges anywhere from dry and sandy to wet and full of clay. The plant is hardy in USDA zones 5 through 8. Water the plant once a week. Make it more often in the hottest time of the year. Regular watering is extremely important in the first year. The tree needs to establish a good, soild, deep root system. By giving the plant water on a regular basis, the soil gets wet deep down and the roots will go down in search of it. If it does not get a good watering, the roots will stay near the surface because that is where the water is and, at least for this plant, that is not a good thing. Give the plant a good dose of general, all purpose fertilizer in the spring, before the new growth gets going. Use seven sons in a mixed border or as a hedge. It makes a great addition to an Asian or Zen garden.. Butterflies will come for the nectar in the fall, so it works well as the centerpiece of a butterfly garden. Use it as a background plant for smaller ones, to liven up a wall or add dimension to a fence line.
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