Flowering shrubs – unexpected white flowers!

(Question)

Two-three years ago I had a butterfly bush which was supposed to have multicoloured flowers – there were only white! Sadly it did not survive a bitter winter. This year I have a clethra – summersweet, two years old but with many flowers for the first time. They were supposed to be pink but again there are only white flowers. Any ideas as to why? I live in south Etobicoke – overall the garden is quite shady but the flowering bushes do get several hours of sun every day. Am I supposed to give them special fertilizer or something?? I water regularly in dry weather. Other flowering shrubs (forsythia, bloomerang lilac, dogwoods), do well in the same situation.Many thanks

(Answer)

I suspect  that the plant tags on your shrub were mislabelled at the garden centre where you purchased your Clethra anifolia.  This Summersweet comes in two colours, pink and white.  “Ruby Spice” is pink, “Vanilla Spice” and “Sixteen Candles” have white flowers.  You may want to double check your plant tags if you still have them.

Regardless of colour, Clethra anifolia is a wonderful  fragrant shrub which you will enjoy for years to come.

Thank you for ensuring that your shrub is so well watered during this hot, dry summer.

The link below provides more detailed information about Clethra anifolia which you  might find helpful.

https://www.mortonarb.org/trees-plants/tree-plant-descriptions/summersweet-clethra