SEVEN-SON FLOWER, SEVEN SONS TREE
syn. H. jasminoides
Family: Caprifoliaceae Pronounced: hep-tuh-KOH-dee-um mik-on-ee-OY-deez
Sunset zones: 2b-6, 14-17.
USDA zones: 5-8.
Height: 20 feet (6 m).
Width: 8-10 feet (2.5-3 m).
Late summer to late autumn.
Clusters of fragrant, creamy white flowers born in clusters of seven, followed by clusters of showy purple fruit with bright purple-red calyxes.
Four-inch long, ovate, deciduous, green leaves that turn purple-bronze in autumn.
Full sun to light, dappled shade.
Fertile, well-drained soil.
Side dress with compost and a complete organic fertilizer in the spring.
Sow seed as soon as ripe.
Softwood cuttings in spring.
In late winter or early spring prune out crossed branches or branches too tall, to maintain good shape.
Rainy Side Notes
The seven sons tree (Heptacodium miconioides) was named a Great Plant Pick for 2008. I heartily agree this is a choice plant for the Pacific Northwest. It certainly is one of my favorite, easy to grow, large shrubs or small tree. I first bought mine from Heronswood Nursery in 1998, and at the time I couldn't find any cultural advice on how to grow it. Unfortunately, this shrub isn't drought tolerant so it needs supplemental watering during our annual drought period.
I pruned my plant to a single trunk so it appears to be a small tree, instead of a large shrub. At its base, I planted Clematis 'The President'; the vine climbs into the branches and flowers in spring and again in summer, giving the shrub another season of interest. In the fall, red calyces follow the fragrant, creamy white flowers born in clusters of seven, that bloom in late summer. The leaves turn a decorous purple-bronze hue in fall.
The genus was first collected in 1907 by by E.H. Wilson in Hupei Province, China. Afred Rehder from the Arnold Arboretum described the new genus in 1916. Rehder named the collected specimens hepta, which means seven, and codium, which refers to the flower head. It then was forgotten until1980, when it was rediscovered by the Sino-American Botanic Expedition.
Recently introduced to this country by the Arnold Arboretum and U.S. National Arboretum, this beautiful multi-stemmed shrub or small tree is not bothered by pests or diseases! H. miconioides is rare in China, with few if any to be found growing in the wild anymore. The shrub has tan bark that exfoliates to reveal an attractive brown inner bark. In August, the white buds form, and in September, the flowers open with a fragrance of jasmine. In fall, the calyx turns bright red until the first hard frost. In a good year, the shrub turns red from numerous calyces. This is a great shrub for late summer, fall and winter interest. Another plus for this shrub is its salt tolerance, so it could be used near the seashore. It also attracts butterflies.
For more images of this wonderful tree, watch this short video (above right), a montage of images—Four Seasons with the Seven Sons Tree.
Photographed in author's garden.