Seven son flower tree


Seldom do we see a plant take the market by storm when newly introduced. Without the backing of a million-dollar advertising campaign, plants may take many years to become recognized by even the most avid horticulturists.

Heptacodium miconioides, or seven-son-flower, is a perfect example of a plant that remained unrecognized years after its introduction and is only now being rediscovered. Although it was first collected in 1907 by E. H. Wilson during an expedition to China, it wasn’t until 1916 that a colleague of Wilson’s, Alfred Rehder, actually attached a name to the collected specimens. Hepta- means “seven,” and -codium refers to the flower head.

Then for nearly 65 years, Heptacodium was forgotten. But in 1980, another expedition to China resulted in the collection of viable seeds of this rare genus. Seeds and cuttings were then distributed by the Arnold Arboretum and the U.S. National Aboretum to several botanical institutions and nurseries. Since that time, the genus has gradually gained popularity. A member of the Caprifoliaceae (honeysuckle) family, the plant is related to viburnum and forsythia.

Heptacodium is an outstanding specimen plant. Grown as a small tree or large shrub, its multistemmed habit reaches 15 to 25 feet with a spread of up to 12 feet. Plants thrive in full sun but have been known to flower and remain healthy in partial shade. However, in shadier conditions, plants tend to develop a loose, irregular habit.

During early May, the glossy leaves emerge and remain attractive throughout the season. In late summer, at a time when few other woody plants are in bloom, creamy white, jasminelike blossoms emerge from the tips of the branches. The blooms are sweetly fragrant and persist for several weeks. To maintain this late bloomer’s attractive shape, Heptacodium must be pruned judiciously during the winter before flower buds have formed.

While the flowers offer an exceptional display of their own, the most stunning trait of Heptacodium arrives after the flowers are spent. In early fall, the flowers mature and develop small, inconspicuous fruits surrounded by a persistent calyx (the ring of petallike leaves that forms the outer layer of a flower). The calyces turn a bright cherry red, resulting in another spectacular, eye-catching display.

Even during winter with flowers and foliage absent, the plants offer aesthetic interest. The bark is a light brown that exfoliates to expose a deeper brown beneath, resembling the river birch, Betula nigra, but lighter in color.

Heptacodium can be seen in the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Sensory Garden and the Pullman Shade Plant Evaluation Garden, where it thrives in dappled shade. The plants there are pruned annually for aesthetics and to control random suckering. Plants have performed well and flowered consistently each year. Researchers at the Garden have been studying Heptacodium, assessing characteristics such as flowering, fruiting, growth habit, and disease and pest resistance. Observed plants have proven to be cold hardy to temperatures as low as minus 30 degrees below zero while still maintaining superior flower and fruit displays.

Discovered almost 90 years ago but officially released only 15 years ago, Heptacodium is still considered a unique plant. If its performance under evaluation continues to excel, Heptacodium has the credentials to become an integral part of Chicago’s gardens.

Seven Son Flower Info – What Is A Seven Son Flower

A member of the honeysuckle family, the seven son flower earned its interesting name for its clusters of seven buds. It was first introduced to American gardeners in 1980, where it is sometimes referred to as “autumn lilac” or “hardy crapemyrtle.” Read on to learn more about this interesting plant.

Seven Son Flower Info

What is a seven son flower? Native to China, seven son flower (Heptacodium miconioides) is classified as a large shrub or small tree with a vase-like growth habit and a mature height of 15 to 20 feet (3-4 m.).

Tiny, white, sweet-scented flowers provide contrast against the dark green foliage in late summer to early fall, followed by cherry red seed capsules that are even showier than the blooms. The peeling, whitish-tan bark on mature trees adds interesting color and texture

to the garden during the winter months.

Seven son flower is easy to grow, and the plant doesn’t tend to be invasive. However, suckers may be a frequent problem for young trees.

Growing Seven Son Trees

Seven son trees don’t tolerate extreme cold or heat, but growing seven son trees is easy if you live in USDA plant hardiness zones 5 through 9.

This lovely little tree shows its colors best in full sun but tolerates light shade. It is adaptable to a wide range of soil conditions, although it prefers fertile, moist, well-drained soil.

While growing seven son trees is possible via seeds or cuttings, most gardeners prefer to plant young, nursery-grown trees.

Heptacodium Seven Son Care

Heptacodium seven son care is almost non-existent, but here are a few tips for growing a healthy plant:

Keep the soil moist until the tree is established. Thereafter, seven son tree is drought tolerant, but benefits from an occasional drink of water during hot, dry weather.

Heptacodium generally requires no fertilizer, but if your soil is poor, you can feed the tree lightly in spring using a plant food formulated for woody plants. A rose fertilizer also works well.

Seven son flower doesn’t require much pruning, but you can prune lightly to remove wayward growth in late winter or early spring. You can also prune to create a single-trunk tree or keep multiple trunks for a natural looking shrub shape. Remove suckers until the main stem is well established.

PLANT PROFILE:Seven Son Flower

Heptacodium miconioides

Description & Overview

The Seven Son Flower is an upright and spreading small stature tree with beautiful dark green foliage and jasmine-like white flower clusters in late summer. In fall a spectacular show begins when the calyces turn bright red. Exfoliating tan bark reveals a cinnamon colored inner bark. A great plant for all seasons!

Core Characteristics

Wisconsin Native: No – Introduced USDA Hardiness Zone: to zone 5 Mature Height: 15-20 feet Mature Spread: 8-15 feet Growth Rate: Fast Growth Form: Small stature tree, upright vase-shape, arching with age Light Requirements: Full Sun to Partial Shade Site Requirements: Prefers average moisture, tolerates a wide range of soils. Flower: Creamy White, Fragrant Bloom Period: July-August Foliage: Glossy green Fall Color: Golden Yellow, with red calyces in September Urban Approved: Yes Fruit Notes: Red calyces on maturing seeds, September

Suggested Uses:

Use Seven Son Flower as a small stature specimen tree in shadier sites, an accent plant in a front lawn, or as a component of a shrub border.

Jasmine-like white flower clusters in late summer. And in fall the calyces turn bright red.

Wildlife Value:

Seven Son Flower provides habitat to birds, and its flowers provide nectar for pollinators.

Maintenance Tips:

If you desire to shape your Heptacodium miconioides, prune it in winter before the flower buds are set. Pruning in Spring or Summer will remove the flower buds and prevent it from flowering that year.

As with all trees, Seven Son Flower will benefit from a maintained mulch ring at the base. Water in periods of extended drought.


No serious disease or insect problems have been observed on Seven Son Flower, but it can be attacked by Verticillium Wilt, a fungal pathogen that also damages Maples, Ash, Eastern Redbud, and Smokebush. If excessive dieback is observed, contact an arborist to develop a management strategy. Protection from winter animal browse may be necessary if noticed on your plant. Use a vinyl wrap or tree guard to protect the trunk.

We invite you to check out the Arborist For Hire lookup at the Wisconsin Arborist Association website to find an ISA Certified Arborist near you.

Leaf Lore:

Seven Son Flower is an underrated landscape plant. It performs admirably in shadier conditions and its small stature makes it ideal for tight spaces. Discovered in 1907 in China, Heptacodium miconioides hasn’t fallen into use until recently. Its name comes from the whorls of seven flowers it displays each fall. Although best in full sun to partial shade, Seven Son Flower will still provide interest in shadier sites. However, its form may be more open and loose than those grown in full sun. Outstanding specimens can be viewed at Boerner Botanical Gardens, the Chicago Botanical Gardens, and our nursery in Menomonee Falls.

Companion Plants:

With its small size and exfoliating bark, Seven Son Flower pairs well with low perennials at its base. Mass plants like Delft Lace Astilbe, Rozanne Geranium, or Hot Lips Turtlehead around the tree to provide an attractive show of color.


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