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What is Heptacodium?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 17 June 2018
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Heptacodium is a genus of flowering shrubs classified in the honeysuckle family and native to China. Gardeners all over the world can grow these hardy and very showy plants. They can sometimes be hard to obtain through nurseries, except by special order, and some gardeners have better success arranging trades with other gardeners for seeds or cuttings.

This genus is believed to be relatively small. One member of the genus, H. miconioides or the seven son flower, is very rare in the wild and may possibly be extinct, although it survives in cultivation. The plants produce stout, woody stems that develop into lengthy branches, and pruning is recommended to shape the plant and direct its growth while it is young. The leaves are narrow and heart shaped, starting out a rich green and dropping off in the fall months.

In the late summer and early fall, Heptacodium bursts into bloom, producing bunches of white to cream trumpet-shaped flowers with a strong aroma. As the flowers fade away, they are replaced by colorful fruit and red calyxes, adding color to the garden after other plants have started to go dormant for the fall and winter. These plants have exfoliating bark, bark that shreds off the parent plant over time, and this becomes readily visible during the period of the year when no leaves are present.

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Heptacodium is hardy in United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) zones five through nine. It likes rich, well-drained soil and partial shade, although in cooler ends of the zone it can be advisable to cultivate it in a more sunny area of the garden. Periodic fertilization is recommended to promote the development of healthy, even plants and foliage. Pruning should take place in the early spring, when Heptacodium is still dormant, and can be used to encourage the plant to have a more shrubby and less leggy growth habit.

Gardeners who are having trouble finding Heptacodium in their local nurseries can try online nursery supplies to see if they make these plants available for shipping. If this is not an option, online seed and cutting exchanges facilitated at gardening websites can be another resource. Even if no seeds or cuttings are currently listed, posting a notice about wanting them can sometimes yield results. Many gardeners love trading rare and unusual plants with each other and will be happy to provide cultivation tips, along with exchanges of plant material.

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