Seven-Son flower: be the first on your block!
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.
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?
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.
Being from the honeysuckle family, is the scent comparable to honeysuckle?
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.
Where is the best place to purchase one.
There are only a handful of growers of this plant on the Front Range and they sell them to the Garden Centers so you’ll be purchasing quality grown from any of these locations on this link- http://plantselect.org/where-to-buy/retailers/
Does this shrub sucker?
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.
What should the tree look like in the winter?
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.
My tree is dying back , I’m wondering if it’s because of drought conditions.
Can, or should it be pruned? Thank you.
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.
I was told it can grow 40 inches a season. Is that true?
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.
The past summer our year old Great Pyrenees pup has found the three year old tree’s branch ends of interest to chew on. She also scratched the lower end of bark. By spring I’ll probably put a fence around the tree but anything I can do now to make it thru winter?
This plant has exfoliating bark and your puppy probably only pulled off an exfoliating piece. The plant should be perfectly fine. As of the chewed branch ends, prune them back slightly with clean cuts less than an inch from the last node you choose to prune from. Prune to shape it next year and let this plant grow into its wonderful upright fountain shape. No need for fencing, you choose a great plant for your puppy to run around and rest under.
Should the dried blooms from last year be trimmed off this spring?
They don’t need to be. They grow through the spent blooms fine and it won’t change the shape of the tree. No need to go through the extra work.
Can the plant grow in southern Alabama.in full sun or dappled shade?
Yes, it should do very well. Offer it good drainage so that its roots are not constantly moist.
We have a lot of black walnut trees on our property. Do you know how this tree tolerate juglone?
Seven-Son Flower is better suited as an understory tree, but I’m not sure how it would handle juglone. I’ve seen many other woodies grown under black walnuts leading me to believe that black walnut juglone is not as potent as books state. Good luck!
We purchased a Seven Son tree in fall of 2015. The first year it did fine, especially for a first year. (2106). In 2017 the tree had really settled and grew a LOT and was spectacular in the fall. Then, in the spring of last year it wasn’t showing any signs of life by end of May. I called the place I bought it and they were uncertain but agreed that as a last ditch effort try cutting it back. I did and ultimately it sent out branches and seemed to get through the season just fine. It is more like a shrub now than the tree it started as. This spring, that centre (which has the largest “trunk”) remains but is dead. The surrounding branches are budding. Should I cut that centre down more? Leave it? Once it leafs out you cannot really see the dead part unless you are really looking for it.
Thanks for any help. Live in Canada, Zone 5b
Great to know this plant grows in Canada! This plant prefers to grow as a multi-stem shrub growing in a fountain shape. The Seven-Son plants that I’ve seen pruned into trees do not like it very well. You can prune the dead out of this plant after all the other branches have leafed out and that would be healthy for this great plant. Enjoy!
I’m growing it in Canada as well. This was its third summer 2nd winter, zone 5b also. Huge amount of growth each year. Flowers in September. I had a lot of perennials in that area: peonies, Shasta daisies etc. It’s so over crowded I want to remove much of the under planting. What is lower growing that would also attract butterflies that would work underneath it?
Try Engelmann Daisy or Kannah Creek Buckwheat or a mock bearberry manzanita. Seven-son is a favorite plant of mine. Enjoy!
Is Heptacodium deer resistant?
They will probably rub on it, but we have no proof they will eat it.
I’ve had one for about 5 yr. I have a few yews & other evergreens 1- 25 feet away. Deer love to eat my yews into a mushroom shape [ as far up as they can easily reah ] but i have seen no indication that they ever chewed on the 7 Son. They also lie to rub on some of those but no indication that they ever rubbed on the 7 Son.
Urban deer herds in Durango, Colorado, have nibbled the side of my Heptacodium that is the most exposed in the yard. So no, this is not deer resistant at all. That said, the deer around here eat all sorts of dubiously called “deer resistant” plants, namely lilac, juniper (yes, they eat this even in summers), columbines, hedera helix (ivy), any flowers on eriogonum, ApachePplume, iris… I can go on. Nothing is deer-resistant here. So spray with egg spray, DeerOff or other stuff, and be sure to rotate blends as deer become accustom to whatever stink/bad taste stuff you are using. After using my recipe of mint essential oil, garlic essential oil, putrified eggs and soapy Irish Spring rinse water, the dang deer have stayed away from my Heptacodium. But the damage will be there for the rest of the season. I’m hoping for recovery next spring. Also living in terror of the deer herds antler-thrashing this shrub the way they destroyed a ninebark last fall. It’s a two-year-old plant and hasn’t seen a lot of growth yet.
Update on deer resistance – Definitely not. I had sprayed the plant and even included some spoiled milk in the mix. Just a week after a modest snow, a lone deer (I could tell by the tracks in the snow) ate the top two feet off, stems and all. This was the only plant eaten. Nearby shrubs include El Diablo Ninebark, a couple of Boulder Raspberries, three-leaf sumac, mahonia, an Allegheny viburnum, and in the shade a stand of Kierra japonica ‘Guinea Gold.’ All the shrubs were sprayed, but the Heptacodium was the only plant munched. It seems that you just have to fence-in everything around here. The deer (which I call rats with hooves) are particularly bad this year. They thrashed two mature Apache Plumes, basically destroying the arching form for the next three years and all but ruined a golden ninebark on the other side of the front yard. The also ate three different penstemons on the side garden. Frustrating.
Do you live in an urban setting or more of a rural/urban setting? The PS Deer and rabbit guidelines are what most people experience and provide this information where deer may occasionally visit. Deer should not recognize plants from other continents as edible, but they taste and learn. These deer eating guidelines are not scientific studies and it would be too expensive to conduct those studies. Personally, I think deer are akin to goats and can eat anything so I expect the worst if there is a population of deer around. Planting in a stealthy way (aka using mostly native plants) allows the deer to pass through and not stop to investigate the unfamiliar plant menu. The other strategy is to plant sacrificial plants far away. Other than that, one can simply enjoy the natural environment they moved into if it is a rural environment.
We’ve had one for several years with a large urban herd of deer (6-9) and it’s not been touched. However, you may need to protect the trunk from rabbits in winter.
Here’s mine love it.
Here’s mine love it.https://photos.app.goo.gl/crdXh8FTZNwjVr2v6
Why would a whole major branch wither and die? Every year (mine is three years old) I have had to clip off a small (one or two foot long) branch that has died but this year, a major trunk in the center has died and will need to be removed. If it’s a root fungus that is causing this, how do I treat it? Thanks for any help.
The photo you sent didn’t come through, but I know what you are talking about. The cause is probably not a root fugnus, but more soil type and/or lake of winter watering. Be sure it’s mulched well with wood mulch and maybe lightly amend the soil around the base with vegetative compost. Good luck, give it another year.
I have seeds for Seventh Son but no information as to planting. I have read to refrigerate the seeds for 90 days prior to planting, which I have. The plant(s) would be located in full sun, with no available shade, in Carson City NV, comparable climate to Ft. Collins. Help, please.
That is a good question. Try germinating them in perlite under mist and if you are not set up for that, I’d sow them directly into the soil in a couple of place where you would like it to grow.
When does this shrub leaf out? Zone 6A
This plant will leaf out just after most of your other plants. Give it a little time before you do something drastic. GREAT PLANT!
How do you train a seven sons to be o e trunk?
Be sure to start training when the plant is young to prune off the low branching. Train the main leader with a bamboo rod to keep leader growing straight and every year prune small/newer limbs into the shape you desire. Seven Son’s tree likes being a large multi-stem “shrub”. Its natural habit is vase/fountain shape and unfortunately, this plant doesn’t seem to like being trained into a single stem tree form, but it can be done with yearly training and supplemental water.
We installed a walkway and will be adding a corner flowerbed which will include a seven son’s tree. I have three questions:
1) Is April or May a good time to plant this tree?
2) It will be planted on the NE corner of the house – is this good sun exposure?
3) Will the flowers attract bees? If so, can you recommend a tree that won’t? (I don’t want to dodge bees/wasps while on the path).
Thanks for any information!
This is a great plant! To answer your questions:
1. Yes now is a great time to plant trees if we don’t get late heavy snows that can bend them.
2. NE corner of the house is a perfect spot for this tree.
3. Flowers will attract honey bees. I’ve never seen wasps on them. All flowering plants will attract bees which means you may have to look at an evergreen such as the weeping white spruce.
Hi! Interested in these beautiful shrub/trees and would like to get one for my front garden (house faces west). I see above a few comments from others who have these in Ontario and was wondering if anyone has any leads on where I can purchase one in the Toronto area? Not having much luck so far! TIA 🙂
I got one at Islington Nurseries in Etobicoke in 2015 in a 2 gallon pot, maybe 1.5 ft tall, looked like a couple of twigs. By July 2016, it was 6′ tall and starting to fill in nicely. It is amazing. Grows remarkably fast, and is thriving in my awful clay soil. Covered in bees and butterflies in late August and September. It’s now about 12-14 ft tall, maybe 7 or 8 ft across and is a full, multistem shrub.
I love this tree. Planted and developed a beautiful 1 in RI. Now living New Bern NC. Had to mail order to find 1. Almost 3 years in the ground. Suddenly getting spotted leaf and drying out foliage? Had weed killer applied by commercial company a couple weeks ago. Any correlation? Never had this condition happen before. Suggestions to help it along?
Send over some photos. Director@plantselect.org
We love our Seven Sons (planted last year) but some of the leaves in early fall and now this spring turned brown at the tip and then dried up. I thought it might be due to a cold snap but could it be a lack of nutrients in the soil? Is there a fertilizer we should be using or is it prone to any specific disease?
It was the late freeze we had. Wait a couple more weeks and the leaves should reemerge. If not those branches can be pruned off.
I have read mixed recommendations regarding planting in MN zone 3/4 border. I would like to tightly plant a grove of these trees on a hillside with slope to the east, ultimately creating a canopy for a walking trail and a small fire pit area. Can you provide your thoughts on zone and application please? Thank you.
This concept is FANTASTIC! It would be so beautiful, perfect lighting too! The only problem is that this plant will not survive in zone 3/4. You might consider a forest of Weeping White Spruce (non-flowering, but also makes magical sense of place).
Thank you for the quick response. According to the 2012 climate zone map I am in Zone 4b (MPLS/ ST PAUL area) would this be acceptable? Thank you.
It might work then. There has been one growing in Casper WY for years. It grows very slowly with a shorter growing season. You should try a few and let me know how they turn out. Planting them on a slope with good drainage will be good for them there. It will be a magical place as a mass planting.
Will it cope under trees mainly in shade or does it need an open spot? Struggling to plant up a large dry shady bank . Soil is good in parts dry in other. Sun about 4 hpursca day in this season. Will it grow? Zone 5b.
In Colorado, the Seven-son flower has been planted in full sun and with some water, it does fine. This tree really performs better as an understory plant, which means it prefers part or mottled shade. It will do very well in your 5b zone. Enjoy! Great plant!
I also have been looking for one of these shrubs in Toronto as well as a few other readers here. Do you know any nurseries around Toronto, Ontario
that are raising these plants?
I have a question about their growth, some descriptions say fast growing, does this plant reach it’s height and then stop growing a much?
Try contacting Maple Leaf Nurseries in Jordan up there. They sell some Plant Select plants. Be sure to tell them we sent you there. Thanks!
I recently bought one at Northland nursery in Millgrove. Looks very healthy. It is in a 1 gallon pot and costs $8.99. They have lots of perennials and shrubs and trees right now.
My seven sons had a major branch completely break and split off, half of the plant is still in tack, will it be ok or should I replace it it is 2 years old?
The plant should recover just fine.
Can you tell me if a “Temple of Bloom” Seven-Son flowering tree & a “Tainshan” Seven-Son Flowering shrub are the same? Also, do they bear fruit or berries?
Temple of Bloom is most likely the same plant. Plan Select introduced this genus species first in 2008. The Tainshan is actually a dwarf form of Heptacodium miconioides. Enjoy!
Are birds attracted to this tree in any way? Or butterflies or bees? Thanks so much
Bees love this plant! It only offers habitat for birds.
I just put in a hive of honeybees this year and they are loving the Seven Son tree blossoms which come late in the summer after many other flowers have died back so it’s a great addition for later season foraging.
We live in Kansas. The tree we got last year came back beautiful but now, in August, many leaves have turned brown. It happened later last summer, too, and looks worse now. Help?
It could be the past 2 summers of heat. This plant seems to perform better as an understory plant in the shade of other trees.
Hello from Lake St. Louis, Mo! Our landscaper planted a Seven Sons Tree this past July in our yard. I love it, but noticed that it had a major break in the tallest and thickest of it’s branches. Should I bandage it up so it doesn’t get worse? What should I use? We often have strong tornado like winds in our area and I’m afraid this main branch will break off. Suggestions?
It’s probably best to just trim it off. Such a good plant!
I have a Seven Sons that I bought as a small tree two years ago. It’s in bloom and covered with bees, which is great. I see your comments about this plant preferring to be left as a multi trunk shrub. Is it possible to have it revert back after it has been trained as a tree? It just doesn’t look good as a tree. No real shape to it.
Yes it will eventually send up branches from the base in the spring and eventually become a multistem fountain shape shrub.
I’m so glad I found this page! Five weeks ago I transplanted my ~8ft Seven Son Flower. I removed it from a raised bed and replanted it in the same spot, but now at ground level. Unfortunately, I had to do this during Boise’s hottest and driest month. The picture shows the plant after removing the extra dirt, but before re-planting. After transplanting, I forgot that I left a hose on the base and over-saturated the ground. It took over a week to dry out, but I’ve resumed watering (more carefully!). Now the plant is in severe shock. The leaves all shriveled, but they are still attached. It looks extremely sad. I believe it’s alive, but certainly at risk of dying. Maybe it won’t help, but I cut off the flowers to prevent it from spending the energy producing the showy calyx. If it survives, do I need to water it throughout fall and winter? Ideally it’ll be the perfect size to screen my neighbor. The bees also love it.
Just in case someone sees this, my bush did survive the winter! It did not leaf out on the upper branches, but there were a few leaves on the lower trunks. It was really ugly, so cut the trunks within six inches of the ground in late spring. I figured I had nothing to lose. Sure enough, this prompted a few new stems emerge at the base right before a brutal heat wave. It stayed over 100 degrees for 11 days. I put up a shade cloth and gave it regular water. I lost two stems to the stress of heat and aphids, but the four remaining stems are now 24” tall. I will probably leave the shade cloth up until September.
Hello – I live now in Murfreesboro, TN, moving here from IL where I had two of these beautiful trees. But my landscaper cannot find these anywhere here. Any ideas on where to get one to plant this fall? I could drive to IL…or MO. Prefer to have one as big as possible, or at least 5 feet?
We were happy to purchase a Seven Son Flower last Spring (2020). The nursery had to trim this and many of its trees after the spring freeze. Our plant is doing well, but it never flowered this year. I’m wondering if the nursery-trim eliminated buds or if perhaps this plant won’t bloom until it’s of a certain age. Please advise, thanks!
It was the late spring trimming which forced the shrub to recover and not produce flowers. You should have them next year. Enjoy
To Lynne Jeffries (post (june 7, 2020). Today found this plant at Bulows Gargen Centre on Lakeshore Road in Mississauga just east of Oakville. To the site moderator can I “train” the seven star to max out at about 8-10 feet and keep it contained within a 2-3 foot radius by pruning?
Yes, you can with yearly pruning. It’s not recommended to prune large branches and that’s why the pruning should be done eveery in the spring on new growth. Shearing this plant will put it into decline.
Does hard wood cuttings work for 7 son tree ? Like you would propagate pomegranate or mick orange in the winter.
Just couldn’t find info.
I think seeds are feasible or else we would t get named selections like ‘Temple of Blooms’(suppose to be earlier blooming and redder seed pods than the typical?).
I’m in Portland ,OR zone 8b
We moved into a house over the winter with one of these in the backyard and we’d like to relocate it. We’re in NE Ohio. Any insights on replanting? Thanks!
Be sure to dig a large rootball for it and move it before it leaves out. Contact your local certified arborist or knowledgeable garden center too. Good luck!
Our relatively young seven sons trees have already leafed out for the season. We are expecting a hard freeze the next 2 nights. Will the trees survive?
It should. They are pretty tough however it may be forced to leaf out again.
Since this is an exotic in Denver, do you know if it attracts native insects and caterpillars? I am concerned about the decline in local populations
(reading Doug Tallamy, “Nature’s Best Hope”) I planted one in my garden several years ago and it is about 4′ tall.
I planted a Seven Son Flowering tree last year. I am very happy with how well it has leafed out this year and withstood several frosts this spring. I am in Michigan and it is on the NE side of my home between a walkway and the home/garage. I am trying to decide now what would be a good plant(s) to plant in the background closer to the house to compliment this tree. I am looking for something around 2-3 ft. I have boxwoods nearby so looking for something different. Any suggestions? I am considering Itea, Sweetspire Little Henry or Scentlandia. Thoughts?
I live in Central Florida, zone 9. Will the Seven Sons grow well here?
Yes, it will grow there. It is native to zone 9 places in Asia.
I’m curious about the root structure of this plant. Can it be planted close to a sidewalk or septic system? I’m in zone 8b in Washington.
Give it space. It does not like to be heavily pruned.
I purchased one of these literally the size of a pencil from Bluestone Perennials online many years back. If you think 40” growth per year is unrealistic, think again! It wasn’t labeled “temple of bloom” at that time but in a matter of 5 years it was a sizeable tree! We were in zone 5 Wisconsin and had very rich soil where we lived. I missed that tree when we moved, the bark was beautiful and bumblebees were all over it when in bloom and it was so beautiful and unique. I have since planted a “temple of bloom” in zone 5 at my new home where I have extremely sandy soil near the fox river (closer to zone 4) and she’s doing just as well here. I’ve only had her two seasons now but I’m looking forward to the coming years. I absolutely love this tree!!! It has an irregular growth habit and is easy to shape and prune to your liking, and she’s sure to stun. I would recommend this tree to anyone!
Is it possible to transplant a full grown seven sons tree? It is currently too close to the house.
Yes, but transplant timing is crucial. Move it in early spring with a large root ball. Professional help should deliver a successful transplant.
These seem fantastic! What nurseries sell Seven Son plants in the Denver/Boulder area? I’d like one trained into a tree if possible.
In the Boulder area, try Harlequin’s or the Flowerbin. More places to try are HERE
Are the roots invasive? Will they disturb a sidewalk or septic system?
No, they do not have aggressive roots. They definitely won’t lift a sidewalk, but I’d follow septic system planting instructions, which are usually not tree plantings above the area.
I had great success with this species in SE New Hampshire. We moved to Hilton Head, SC area and planted one young plant to see if it would take our hot humid summers. It seems to be doing well though not as well as NH. I’m trying to shape it similar to a crape myrtle with an odd number of trunks. One of these has grown much better than others; I’m wondering if I should trim that down to size of others or just let it go.
Great plant! However, it seems not to enjoy being trained into single or multi-stem plants. It’s best to just let it go because it will still have a fountain shape, just not exactly like a crape myrtle.
Hi my name is Les I’m just wondering if you can tell me are there any people or wholesalers I could contact in Australia to buy a seven son flower tree
Hello! I was wondering if anyone has seen these trees at a nursery in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) this year (2022) ?
I did find one at Vandermeer’s Nursery in Ajax, Ontario
We planted a new seven Sons tree years back and it’s been doing great. All of a sudden I noticed bark wounds where wood seems to be cracking. What could be causing this and what can I do to help the tree
This plant has exfoliating bark. You will see it shedding/peeling away from the trunk and branches which offers pleasant winter interest. Squirrels that may be climbing the tree may be causing extra damage, or it could be from a hail storm. Liquid fertilize the tree to offer it extra nutrients to heal from those types of damage.
I bought this 4 years ago, it was a 5 gallon plant. I planted it in the southwest corner of our yard. My problem is it hasn’t grown any since I planted it. It leafs out every year and has additional stems just isn’t growing up. Any suggestions?
Offer it more water and some general fertilizer. They can grow slowly, but that will help.
Hi, Do they have Fibrous Roots or deep Tap roots. How far should they be planted from the house or House Foundation.?
No need to worry about how close this plant is to a house or leach field. They don’t have that aggressive of roots.
I have just moved to New Brunswick in Canada and live on the ocean. Can these trees tolerate high winds and salt water spray? If so would you know if I am able to purchase one in the Moncton area?
I just bought one of these shrubs from Stanley’s Greenhouse in Knoxville. I have really enjoyed reading this thread to aquaint myself with this plant. How exciting!