I can only assume that there’s a clever link between Sixteen Candles Sweet Pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia ‘Sixteen Candles’) and the Molly Ringwold movie, but I’m an embarrassment to Gen X. I’ve never seen it. Haven’t even caught the movie between commercial breaks while flipping channels. What I DO know is that this Sweet Pepperbush is a great little Virginia native shrub that pollinators love.
If I can go on a tangent, the genus name Clethra comes from the Greek klethra. That means alder, and the leaves of Sweet Pepperbush resemble alder leaves. The species, alnifolia, means… leaves like alder. So the botanical name is essentially Alder McAlderbush. I retract any previous claims about botanical names not being stupid. Anyhow.
Clethra is a native shrub that will tolerate wet areas. In fact, wet spots in partial shade will make clethra very happy, although they will tolerate full sun. “Sixteen Candles’ grows to 3 to 5 feet tall. In the summertime you’ll see it covered in upright, long white blooms that look like candles. Probably more than sixteen of them, but I ain’t no scientitian. Clethra ‘Sixteen Candles’ also has a lovely compact growth habit, which is a nice contrast to some of the more loose and rangey plants out there.