What's up (or not) with my clethra?

diggerdee zone 6 CTJune 14, 2011

I planted a few clethra Ruby Spice in a very wet, half shade/half sun garden about two years ago.

They are growing nicely, but two of them are laying flat on the ground. I know one of them got hit with a branch this winter - I had thought it was a goner but it continues to grow, laying on the ground. (I have to keep re-propping it up.) The second one, I found no apparent damage to, but it also is growing wonderfully; its just laying on the ground too.

Are these plants known to be floppy or top-heavy? They don't seem to have more growth on top, at least not enough to make it topple. Is the soil too wet? Not enough sun? All I read on them says they like wet soil and part shade.

I'm stymied, and not sure what to do other than to keep propping them up. Any thoughts?



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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5


i think you question ought to be whether it can be cut to the ground and rejuvenated..

rather than whether you should live with it flopped over ...

links seem to suggest it flowers on new wood .. and that probably means they can be severely pruned...

since i have never had one.. i will let others chime in in that regard ..


Here is a link that might be useful: link

    Bookmark   June 14, 2011 at 1:45PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

Well, yes, my question was "any thoughts" on the floppiness - so that technically includes whether it can be pruned back or not, lol! And that was actually one of the things I was wondering about.

However, if it's in the wrong spot, no amount of pruning will make it happy, hence my other thoughts on moisture and sun exposure.

This is my first experience with clethra. I'd hate to have to cut them back too far - they're a good 4 to 5 feet tall, and since last summer was their first season, I was hoping for more bloom this year. Sigh. I guess the blooms won't look so hot laying on the ground though, will they? So maybe pruning back is the way to go.

I'd still like to know WHY they are so floppy though...


    Bookmark   June 14, 2011 at 7:02PM
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tepelus(6a SW MI)

Probably, if you had a lot of rain like we have had here in Ohio, the problem with the flopping could be they grew too much too quickly, and the stems haven't had time to age enough to harden, so there they flop. I have several perennials that grew much too big too fast and are flopping. I have a clethra Ruby Spice, the rabbits ate most of the branches closest to the ground over winter and I didn't think they'd regrow, but they are. Sounds like they need to be pruned back or they'll remain floppy.


    Bookmark   June 14, 2011 at 9:28PM
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I have Ruby Spice in several wetlands as well as one of the smaller white ones, maybe '16 Candles', in a drier area. None of mine flop at all; they have relatively upright, stiff stems. Not sure other than damage how or why they might do that.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2011 at 12:27AM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

Thanks for the input. I did a bit of research and think it's too late to prune without sacrificing bloom. I think I will try to prop them up for the rest of the season, because I really want the bloom this year. Then I'll cut them back early next spring.

Thanks, all!

    Bookmark   June 16, 2011 at 3:14PM
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