Fall Blooming Tree-Heptacodium, Seven Sons Flower
Fall is typically the season where everyone is enjoying the changing foliage colors on trees and shrubs in the landscape and there's not much to look at in the way of flowers with the exception of the usual the fall mums and asters and a few other perennials. But not every plant follows the typical blooming schedule of spring or summer. Heptacodium miconioides is a distincitive small tree that not only blooms in the fall, but has several other exciting features as well.
Heptacodium miconioides (mi-coin'-ee-oy'-dees), also known as Seven Sons Flower, Crape Myrtle of the North and Autumn Lilac, has been a well kept secret over the last century. This tree is realatively new to the horticulture industry, but has been in existance for over 100 years. It was discovered in China back in 1907 and introduced to the United States in the 1980's by the Arnold Arboretum. Only recently has Heptacodium been starting to gain popularity as a plant that adds wonderful value in the landsape. Several botanical gardens around the country have specimen plants on display and the Missouri Botanical Garden has named it a "Plant of Merit". It was also the winner of Gold Medal Plant Award of the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society in 1995. Little to no marketing efforts for Heptacodium have made it difficult to gain in popularity, but currently more and more nursery growers are propagating the plant and it is becoming more readily available in the market.
There are several features that make Heptacodium an excellent choice to enhance the landscape.
First of all, it's one of the few trees that blooms in the fall! Beginning in late August to early September it explodes with small, beautiful, creamy white flowers that are very fragrant and produced in clusters of 7 (that's where the Seven comes from in the name) on each terminal. Because the flowers are a great source of nectar, Heptacodium is a welcomed attraction for butterflies. And just when you think the show's over the blooms fade and the next act begins with an even showier display. The sepals turn a bright reddish-pink color lasting late into the fall. Another delightful feature of Heptacodium is its winter interest. Long after the flowers have faded and the sepals are spent the tree settles down for winter and displays its attractive bark. Tan outter bark exfoliates and uncovers a darker brown layer of bark underneath that has a striking appearance all winter long.
Heptacodium miconioides has a fountain shape, is a member of the honey suckle family and is considered to be a large shrub or small tree, depending on how it is pruned. Once established, it is a relatively easy plant to grow and tolerates a fair amount of soil conditions. Like most other plants, a nutrient rich and well drained soil will help it perform at its best. Seven Sons likes to be in full sun, but will tolerate some light shade. It is a fast growing plant reaching about 20' tall and 10-15' wide with an upright habit. The hardiness zones for Heptacodium include zones 5-9.
The uses for Heptacodium have a broad range from a specimen plant to wind break or background plant. When pruned into a small tree it can be used as a specimen plant in a foundatioin planting or as an accent plant around a pool or by a deck. When left to grow as a shrub it can make a good choice to plant as a fence line or as a backdrop in a mixed planting bed.
There is a lot more to be seen from Heptacodium miconioides. This is a great new (relatively speaking) up and coming plant that will definitely be seen more and more in the trade and in the landscape as time goes on.