Heptacodium miconioides

Published On: July 23rd, 2021

bee pollinating on white flowering heptacodium miconioides seven son flower autumn lilac in late summer

Autumn Lilac / Seven Son Flower (Heptacodium miconioides) absolutely deserves more attention as a landscape plant. As a maintenance-free small ornamental tree that offers multiple seasons of interest, it is perfectly suited to smaller properties.

The common name Autumn Lilac comes from the fact that the clusters of creamy-white, fragrant flowers that are borne in autumn are reminiscent of Lilac flowers. Its second common name, Seven Son Flower, comes from its Chinese heritage and alludes to the structure of the flowers. Native to China, this superb plant is near extinction in its native land. Historically it has been very difficult to find in the nursery trade as well. Thankfully, it is finally gaining the recognition it deserves and is growing in popularity as a landscape plant. We believe it is vastly underutilized and are delighted to have it available.

One of the most fascinating aspects of this plant is its “double bloom” season. In late summer it produces a profusion of creamy-white flowers. But the best is yet to come! As the petals drop the equally showy red calyxes are revealed, creating the illusion of a second bloom of a different color.

After the leaves drop in autumn the exfoliating bark adds subtle interest to the winter landscape as the dark brown outer bark peels in strips to uncover light tan bark beneath.

Autumn Lilac in a Nutshell:

  • Mature height: 6′-18′, depending on variety
  • Mature spread: 6’-10’
  • Light requirement: Full sun to light shade
  • Growth form: Fountain-shaped small tree. Can be either single or multi-stemmed
  • Flowers: Panicles of cream white, fragrant flowers in autumn. As petals drop the red colored surrounding calyces are revealed, giving the appearance of a second bloom of a different color.
  • USDA Hardiness Zone: Zones 5-9
  • Especially valuable as:
    • Late season bloom
    • A long season of floral interest
    • Winter interest
    • Ornamental tree for smaller properties
    • Late season food source for pollinators
white flowering branches canopy on heptacodium miconioides seven son flower autumn lilac

First Editions® Tianshan® (Heptacodium miconioides ‘Minhep’)

While bred in France, this new cultivar is named after the mountain range in China where the species is native. Clusters of fragrant, creamy-white flowers appear in late summer, with each whorl containing 7 flowers. What makes this variety unique is its compact habit, growing only 8-12’, spreading only 5-7’. This small plant is well branched and forms an upright, arching, large shrub or small tree.

Temple of Bloom® (Heptacodium miconioides ‘SMNHMRF’ USPP 30,763, Can PBRAF)

Temple of Bloom™ differs from other Heptacodium on the market in that the bracts (actually sepals) develop a much deeper red color. Plus, it blooms earlier, so that even in colder areas of its hardiness range, you’ll still get a chance to see that color develop. It’s also a bit smaller in its overall height. Mature height 6’-10’.