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.

36 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.

  8. bird watcher says:

    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?

    • Ross Shrigley says:

      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.

  9. Jan Blecke says:

    Should the dried blooms from last year be trimmed off this spring?

    • Ross Shrigley says:

      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.

  10. Faye McKinney says:

    Can the plant grow in southern full sun or dappled shade?

  11. Claire Dam says:

    We have a lot of black walnut trees on our property. Do you know how this tree tolerate juglone?

    • Ross Shrigley says:

      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!

  12. Kim Sanderson says:

    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

    • Ross Shrigley says:

      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!

      • Rachel says:

        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?

        • Ross Shrigley says:

          Try Engelmann Daisy or Kannah Creek Buckwheat or a mock bearberry manzanita. Seven-son is a favorite plant of mine. Enjoy!

  13. Susan (Sue) Bockelman says:

    Is Heptacodium deer resistant?

  14. Jeff Bedard says:

    Here’s mine love it.

  15. anthony Adams says:

    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.

    • Ross Shrigley says:

      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.

  16. Jan French says:

    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.

    • Ross Shrigley says:

      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.

  17. Sarah Easton says:

    When does this shrub leaf out? Zone 6A

    • Ross Shrigley says:

      This plant will leaf out just after most of your other plants. Give it a little time before you do something drastic. GREAT PLANT!

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