Seven-Son flower: be the first on your block!

Heptacodium miconioides Seven-son flower Plant Select

Seven-Son flower is a small tree to large shrub. This unusual member of the honeysuckle family is not a vine but a handsome vase-shaped woody plant and one that is relatively unknown to most gardeners. During the growing season, Seven-Son flower is covered with 4-6 inch long thick, glossy leaves. The flowers appear in mid to late July in tight, whorled sets of seven hence its common name. Following flowering, the sepals at the base of the flowers not only persist, but also continue to elongate and turn bright red as the seeds mature. Seven-Son flower also has a soft tan-colored, striping bark that provides winter interest making this plant a welcome spectacle in all seasons.

The plant was first discovered by the western world in 1907 in China, but not cultivated commercially. A 1980 expedition re-collected specimens and it was introduced by the Arnold Arboretum. Seven-Son flower has since been grown and trialed at botanic gardens and universities all across the United States but is still relatively unknown in many retail markets. This is an adaptable and versatile plant and will tolerate a very wide range of conditions where it can reach 15-20 feet tall and 10 foot wide. Although Seven-Son flower tolerates moderately dry conditions it should not be grown entirely non-irrigated. It is sure to be the centerpiece and focal point in many wonderful gardens; hopefully yours will be one of the first.

View the plant profile here. Or watch the video here.

Seven-Son Flower (Heptacodium miconioides)
Large shrub or small tree
Height: 18-25 feet
Width: 10-15 feet
Blooms: August to September
Sun: Full sun to partial shade
Soil Moisture: Moderate to dry
Hardiness: USDA zones 5-9
Culture: Loam or sandy soil

Thanks to Mike Bone, Denver Botanic Gardens, for writing this piece.

14 responses to “Seven-Son flower: be the first on your block!”

  1. Are any parts of the tree poisonous to dogs? What do the seed pods look like? Does the seed drop result in a lot of seedlings under the tree? How does it do in our Spring/Fall snow storms?

    • Pat Hayward says:

      In most parts of the country this tree blooms so late it doesn’t have time to set seed, so seedlings are not usually a problem. It’s in the honeysuckle family so I doubt there are any poisonous parts, but I don’t have that information at hand. It holds up reasonably well in snow storms. If there is breakage it’s usually not a problem because it’s a very twiggy, densely branched plant and new growth easily covers up lost branches. They also don’t get that big – they’re not shade trees – so any damage incurred is not as extensive as on older shade trees. The worst problem we’ve seen is hail storms beating up the leaves in the middle of summer.

  2. Darlene says:

    Being from the honeysuckle family, is the scent comparable to honeysuckle?

    • Pat Hayward says:

      It is indeed fragrant, but not as strong as some of the shrub or vine honeysuckles. It’s mostly noted in the evening and morning.

  3. Joseph Parris says:

    Where is the best place to purchase one.

  4. LoniG says:

    Does this shrub sucker?

    • Ross Shrigley says:

      No it will not. It will send up new shoots at the base. Seven-Son Flower likes to be a multi-stem plant more than trained as a tree.

  5. FGO says:

    What should the tree look like in the winter?

    • Ross Shrigley says:

      You’ll see lots of exfoliating bark on this fantastic plant. Great winter interest. If you are wondering if it is a live, it probably is. It’s very tough, but can almost feel like it died when you bend the branches. The Seven-Sons here in Fort Collins are just beginning to leaf out.

  6. Wendy says:

    Can, or should it be pruned? Thank you.

    • Ross Shrigley says:

      These fantastic plants can be mildly pruned. Instances where people have tried to prune them into trees seems to cause health decline. They should grow nicely in a vase shape given enough space.

  7. Cheryl says:

    I was told it can grow 40 inches a season. Is that true?

    • Ross Shrigley says:

      I think 40 inches is a bit much in a season. Unless, the plant is well watered and it’s in heavy competition for light. For example, planted close to taller established trees or shrubs. In full sun with moderate to low watering, expect a 24″ growth rate or less per year.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Optionally add an image (JPEG only)