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.

54 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?
    Thanks!

    • 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 Alabama.in 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?

    • Ross Shrigley says:

      They will probably rub on it, but we have no proof they will eat it.

      • Don Behenna says:

        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.

    • Bob says:

      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.

  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!

  18. Heather says:

    How do you train a seven sons to be o e trunk?

    • Ross Shrigley says:

      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.

  19. Melanie says:

    Hi,
    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!

    • Ross Shrigley says:

      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.
      Good luck!

  20. Julia says:

    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 🙂

  21. William Davies says:

    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?

  22. Gigi Maddox says:

    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?

  23. David Neitzel says:

    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.

    • Ross Shrigley says:

      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).

      • David Neitzel says:

        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.

        • Ross Shrigley says:

          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.

  24. Beth says:

    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.

    • Ross Shrigley says:

      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!

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