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Plants from the Ground Up

Heptacodium miconioides SEVEN-SONS PLANT

Heptacodium miconioides - SEVEN SONS PLANT

I am fascinated by plants with stories; plants that have been “lost”, only to be discovered still in the wild, or sadly plants that have become extinct in the wild and yet are carried on by dedicated folks that preserve and propagate what could have been lost forever. Franklinia alatamaha, Firmiana major, Gingko biloba and Heptacodium miconioides are among many that have these stories to tell. Heptacodium was once thought be extinct in the wild, but has been found still living in two remote Chinese provinces. First brought from China by E.H.Wilson, the Arnold Arboretum was responsible for bringing this wonderful plant to the attention of Western horticulture.

One of the best things about Seven-Sons Plant is that it puts on a show in August/September when so many other plants are all bloomed out. Clusters of white buds open showing seven flowers (seven-sons!), among soft-green simple, ovate leaves that are arranged oppositely on grey-brown bark. The flowers are a welcome food source for bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. Even more dramatic than the flowers are the following rosy-red calyces which elongate after bloom and hang on into autumn. The rough peeling bark on this fine vase shaped (15-20′ x 15′) shrub/tree adds wonderful winter interest.

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Another wonderful aspect of Heptacodium is that is very easy to grow. It isn’t picky about soil conditions, can tolerate some drought, thrives in sun or part shade and it is hardy from USDA zones 5-9. Propagation is also fairly simple from direct-sown seeds in fall or softwood cuttings. There are no known major insect or disease problems for this honeysuckle relative.

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