How to Grow Calycanthus — Carolina Allspice

Calycanthus flower
Calycanthus, Carolina Allspice, a native deciduous shrub with dark red flowers

Calycanthus–commonly called Carolina allspice–is a large, bulky shrub with lush foliage and unusual, fruit-scented flowers. Calycanthus flowers are narrow and lance-shaped; they resemble tiny waterlilies.

Calycanthus is a deciduous shrub native to woodlands and streambanks. It is a good choice for a border, for a summer flowering hedge, or as specimens.

Calycanthus flowers on the current season’s wood so it can be cut back close to the ground in autumn. As a seasonal fragrant hedge, it grows 6 to 10 feet (2-3m) tall and 10 to 12 feet wide.

Deep red Carolina spicebush flower
Deep red Carolina spicebush flower

Get to Know Calycanthus 

  • Plant type: Deciduous shrub 
  • Growing zones and range: Zones 5 to 9 
  • Hardiness: Hardy to Zone 5
  • Height and width: 6 to 10 feet (2-3m) tall and 10 to 12 feet wide.
  • Foliage: Opposite dark green leaves from 2 to 8 inches (5-20cm) long that are clove-scented when crushed.  
  • Flowers: Deep reddish blooms with elliptical petals that resemble small water lilies; they are usually fragrant.  
  • Bloom time: Summer 
  • Uses: Combine with other shrubs in a border.  
  • Garden companions: Blue and white cultivars of French hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla
  • Common name: Carolina allspice, sweetshrub 
  • Botanical name: Calycanthus 
  • Family name: Calycanthaceae
  • Origin: Woodlands and streambanks in the United States

Where to Plant Calycanthus 

  • Plant Calycanthus in full sun in cool-summer regions and partial shade in hot summer regions.  
  • Plant Calycanthus in humus-rich, moist soil that is well-drained. 
Sweetshrub Venus flower
Sweetshrub Venus flower – Latin name – Calycanthus floridus x Venus

When to Plant Calycanthus 

  • Plant Calycanthus seed as soon as it is ripe in the fall or sow seed in spring. 
  • Set container-grown plants in the garden in spring or autumn.

Planting and Spacing Calycanthus 

  • Space Calycanthus 10 to 12 feet (3-3.6m) apart.

How to Water and Feed Calycanthus 

  • Keep the soil evenly moist for best growth.
  • Feed Calycanthus with an all-purpose organic fertilizer in spring.

How to Care for Calycanthus 

  • Calycanthus flowers on the current season’s growth; prune Calycanthus to the ground in early spring.

Calycanthus Pests and Diseases 

  • Calycanthus can develop leaf spots, powdery mildew, or dieback. 
  • Calycanthus has few garden pests.  
Sweetshrub (Calycanthus floridus)
Sweetshrub (Calycanthus floridus)

Calycanthus Propagation 

  • Sow seed as soon as ripe in autumn; grow seed on in a cold frame.
  • Take softwood cuttings of Calycanthus in early summer.
  • Layer Calycanthus in autumn or remove suckers in spring. 

Calycanthus Varieties to Grow 

  • Calycanthus chinensis, Chinese spicebush: Grows 6 to 9 feet (1.8-2.7) tall and bears huge gloss leaves; 3-inch white spring flowers are tinged with pink and have yellow centers but no fragrances.
  • C. floridus, common sweetshrub, Carolina allspice: native to the eastern United States; grows to 8 feet tall and 10 feet wide; dark green leaves to 5 inches long; 2-inch maroon flowers with straplike petals can smell like strawberries, bananas, or pineapples’ cultivar ‘Athens’ has very fragrant yellow flowers.  
  • C. occidentalis, California allspice: West Coast native similar to eastern but grows larger.

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