Heptacodium miconoides

Our theory is, if a plant looks fantastic in the September garden, it merits attention. And if it has winter interest, grows quickly to a reasonable size and is easy to keep happy, then you should absolutely consider finding a spot for it. As I was driving though our little town of Dartmouth the other day, I had to pull over when I saw a picture perfect candidate of such a plant, Heptacodium miconoides, gracing a small streetside garden.

Heptacodium miconoides, or “Seven Son Flower” is relatively new in cultivation here in the US, having come ashore from China in the 1980’s. It bears attractive green foliage, resembling peach leaves, and finally in late summer and early fall, it produces panicles of fragrant, jasmine scented white flowers, which last for a couple of weeks, after which showy rosy red bracts remain. The common name “Seven Son Flower” refers to the 7 branches of blossoms of each panicle. We acquired our first specimen as a plant dividend at the Arnold Arboretum’s Fall Plant Sale in 1989. To our delight, it grew quite quickly, putting on as much as 3′ in a season. We learned after a bit that Heptacodium wants to be a multi stemmed shrub, unless pruned to one or several strong leaders. Our preference was to show off the handsome exfoliating bark, so we removed all but the strongest 3 trunks. If you would prefer to have a single trunk, select a young plant and stake one stem for straight growth.

Heptacodium merits attention for its adaptability to a variety of soil conditions, including soils that remain dry for some time, although occasional supplemental watering wouldn’t hurt. It is tolerant of salt spray, making it useful near the seashore. Other big plusses: Heptacodium is deer resistant, and the butterflies and bees absolutely love the blossoms. Provide it with lots of sunshine. Pruned as a small tree it can be the focal point of a small garden, or planted en masse it would make a showy hedge. It’s perfectly hardy in zones 5-8.

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9 thoughts on “Heptacodium miconoides”

  1. I planted this tree in my zone 4 garden in downtown Hanover, NH about 15+ years ago after taking a class with Stephen Spongberg at the Arnold Arboretum as a Radcliffe landscape student. It has performed beautifully. In November, the bracts do turn red so that it still looks like it is in flower. I agree, it grows fast. The peeling bark is a show all winter. We love it!

  2. I have also had good luck w/ Heptacodium miconoides in zone 4. I planted one approximately four years ago in a somewhat exposed location in rural Hamlin County in eastern South Dakota, where it has endured at least two winters of -30 degrees w/o winter kill or any problems. It’s a beautiful plant.

  3. Charles, thank you for sharing your experience growing Heptacodium in zone 4, South Dakota. Your success might encourage other gardeners in cold climates to give Seven Son Flower Tree a try.

  4. Looking for some advice- I planted this last fall. One stem has grown to 10 ft tall, while the others are still maybe 3-4 ft. The tall stem is hanging over, pulling on the stake. Should I cut back this long stem? Will that force the others to get stronger or will that damage the plant?
    thanks for any tips!

  5. Heptacodium need pruning. They can be trained to a single leader but I think that having 3, 5 or maybe 7 strong upward trunks will complement the plant the most, and allow you to enjoy the exfoliating bark that develops as the plant matures. It blooms on new growth so pruning off unwanted branching in the spring won?t affect flower production.
    Decide how many trunks you prefer for the spot that you?ve planted it in. Stake the trunks you would like to keep. Prune out the rest. Early spring is a great time to do this, but if you absolutely have to do it in the fall, it is not that big a deal. Heptacodium put on a lot of growth in one season, so if you need to reedit the shape at a later date, the plant will accommodate.

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