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September 1, 2020

Tree of the Month

Heptacodium miconioides

The Seven-son-flower is a highly underutilized small, summer flowering tree. First discovered in China and introduced to America back in 1907, it was mostly forgotten for over 70 years, and was rediscovered in 1980.  Since then, it has been gaining favor for use in small spaces, flower and butterfly gardens.

The tree grows to about 15-25 feet in height and 10-15 feet wide.  It can be planted as a single stemmed specimen but is more often grown as a multi-stemmed tree.  It likes a moist but well-drained soil, but will tolerate sandy soils as well, just not saturated soils.

Seven-son-flower takes its name from ‘hepta’, meaning 7, and ‘codium’, referring to its seed head.  In addition to the small, fragrant, jasmine-like flowers that appear in August when few other trees are flowering, the unique red seed heads add an extra month of interest at the end of the growing season to warrant your attention.  The flowers are also attractive to hummingbirds, butterflies and other pollinators.

The leaves are a glossy green 3-6” in length and 1-2” wide.  Fall color is a yellow to orange, but some leaves will drop while still green if there is a hard frost.  Unlike several other summer flowering trees, Seven-son-flower has been proven to be quite cold hardy, surviving temperatures up to -30 degrees Fahrenheit.  The bark is also attractive, providing winter season interest in the garden with its peeling tan, light brown to white stems.

They have no serious inset or disease pests of any significance, and generally require little pruning or maintenance other than a few small dead twigs that appear each season.  Flowering will be best in full sun, but they will tolerate some shade and still perform quite well.  Overall, Seven-son-flower is an interesting and attractive tree that deserves a place of prominence in your summer garden.

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