Seven-son-flower or Heptacodium miconioides (HM) can be a large, rangy, irregular appearing, multi-stemmed, deciduous shrub, but it can also be trained into a delightful, single-trunked tree. HM typically grows 15-25 feet in height at maturity with a 10' spread. As stems and trunks mature, the light brown to tan bark begins to peel off and shed in long strips creating plant interest, especially in the winter. This incredible plant is in the Caprifoliaceae or honeysuckle family and its name is derived from the flowers it bears; specifically, Hepta = seven and codium = flowers, which is an allusion to the seven-flowered heads of the inflorescence!
What makes HM really a knockout in the landscape is that the bloom time is late August to mid-September and even later, depending on weather conditions. This is a “lull-time” in the interest created within a landscape and typically, most woody plants are considering shutting down for the winter! The irony is that the creamy-white flowers are a great addition with their pleasant scent, but the real impact is not the seventeen hundred sons flowers… but the sepals!
HM persistent sepals first envelop each flower and are the typical green found on every plant. After the bloom develops and matures, all of the petals fall off, and then the real magic of this plant happens! Those sepals, seemly out of nowhere, appear larger and mature from the hidden green to a FANTASTIC shade of rose-purple. There is such variation in sepal colors and I have seen plants that range from light rose-pink to others that are much deeper in tone and color.
Recently, I planted the HM cultivar named ‘Temple of Bloom’, which professes to have sepals that are much darker than the species, out in front of the office. If nothing else happened, I thought I could look out the window and tell people, “that’s my temple of bloom growing there!” Honestly, I have to admit that it was genius (and sheer luck) on my part to have that plant there!
I have absolutely loved watching changes happening on HM! The really late blooms contrasted the incredible fall colors of our sugar and red maples. Then seeing sepals change from being unnoticed to an incredible rose-purple, rivaling the stunning fall colors of trees, has become an almost reverential, awe-inspiring ritual for me to gaze out my window! Then as I took pictures (because I just couldn’t help myself) for this article, I began to notice other nuances about this plant that AMAZED me!
It is now November and the plants have experienced some snow, really cold nights and a few frosts… AND THEY ARE STILL STUNNING! I’m a believer and you need to find a place in your landscape to plant a HM and enjoy the view from mid-August on too!!