The Calycanthus floridus, which comes from North America, has been cultivated in local green spaces and parks since the 18th century. Used by the Indians as a medicinal herb, however, the plant is only now slowly beginning its triumphal march into the smaller gardens. The ornamental wood, which smells of cloves and strawberries, is easy to cultivate and also feels good in pots. The hardy spice bush itself requires little care and is at the same time robust against pests and widespread fungal diseases.

Location and soil

The strongly fragrant plant with the star-shaped, approximately 5 cm large flowers feels most comfortable in full sun and light places in partial shade. If the location is too dark, the burgundy flowers of the Calycanthus floridus will suffer. Even the clove-like smell is hardly developed without direct sunlight. Spice bushes can reach a height of up to 3 meters and are best shown off as a solitary plant in the open air or on the terrace. The soil should be loose and rich in humus, sandy soils can be upgraded with clay and compost.

Fertilizing and watering

The North American plant is extremely frugal when it comes to the supply of nutrients: mulch the soil in spring and late summer and mix in large amounts of humus or horn shavings. When it comes to the spice bush, less is more. In order to avoid over-fertilization, you should avoid the additional use of long-term and liquid fertilizers when cultivating in the garden. The only exception here is Calycanthus floridus in pots: These plants should be fertilized regularly.

Spice bushes are extremely moisture-loving plants. The soil should be able to store small amounts of water in order to prevent the root ball from drying out too quickly. Check the substrate regularly and water again when the top layer of soil has dried noticeably. The best time to do this is in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid water evaporation during the midday heat. The ornamental wood cannot cope adequately with waterlogging and there is a risk of root rot.


In spring or late summer, the Calycanthus floridus can be planted in the garden or in a tub. Protect freshly planted plants in the first winter with a warming layer of mulch. The following items are required for planting outdoors:

  • tool
  • bucket
  • Pebbles
  • Humus or compost
  • Clay

With a sufficiently large planting hole, you can make it easier for the plant to take root. The circumference of the hole should be two thirds larger than the roots of the spice bush. You can counteract the compaction of the soil and the resulting increased risk of waterlogging with the pebbles. Mix this with the compost in the excavated earth and enrich soil that is too dry with clay. It takes some time for the roots to be able to absorb moisture and nutrients on their own. Therefore, give the plant roots an extensive water bath a few hours before planting. Then insert the spice bush into the planting hole up to the root neck and fill this with the freshly prepared soil. As a last step, the pressed substrate is well poured on.

For the cultivation as a container plant you need a sufficiently large and stable planter. Use clay pots, these are UV-resistant and can easily withstand the pressure of the roots. A thin layer of pebbles or small potsherds on the bottom of the pot ensures that excess water is transported away from the plant more quickly and that standing moisture does not form in the pot. You can use conventional potting soil for the substrate, which has been enriched with humus beforehand. Here, too, press the substrate firmly and pour plenty of water. The following days should always be replenished abundantly.


Although the real spice bush is still relatively unknown in our local green spaces, the desire is growing in many gardeners to cultivate the plant themselves with the plant parts that smell of strawberries and cloves. If you don’t want to use Calycanthus floridus from specialist retailers yourself or if you want to propagate an existing spice bush, the North American plant can also be grown by seeds, subsets or cuttings.


The cultivation takes place from February on the windowsill. To do this, press the seeds into poor substrate and cover the planter with a transparent film. Warm temperatures and increased humidity accelerate the germination of the spice bush. The substrate must be checked regularly, always keep it moderately moist. As soon as the germinated plants have reached a height of about 15 centimeters, you can move them outdoors. If you want to plant the spice bushes in groups, you should keep a minimum distance of about 50 centimeters between the individual plants. The seeds are highly toxic. If possible, avoid prolonged contact with the skin and keep children and pets away from it.


The best time for this type of propagation is in July. In order for the rooting to work, you should proceed as follows:

  • A half lignified shoot tip is shortened to 15 centimeters.
  • Completely remove the lower leaves.
  • Put the cutting in a container with a nutrient-free substrate.
  • Keep the soil sufficiently moist and ensure high humidity.
  • The location should be bright and warm.

A perforated film, which you put directly over the entire cutting and the vessel, has also proven itself here. You can tell after about four weeks whether the rooting was successful, when the plant forms new shoots and leaves. Propagation via cuttings does not always succeed, even if you wet the lower end of the plant with a special rooting powder. Therefore, make sure that the planter is not exposed to direct sunlight. By cutting several cuttings, you also increase the chances of the herb growing successfully.


Take a young secondary shoot of the deciduous plant and press its center firmly into the substrate. With the top sticking out of the ground, you should keep the soil evenly moist. It can take several months for the roots to develop; only then should you separate the sinker from the mother plant.

Tip: Protect the young plants adequately from snow and frost in the first year.

To cut

The cut is made in the spice bush in early spring, before the plant sprouts. You should completely remove sick and dead shoots. Side shoots that are already lignified and growing transversely are also consistently cut out. If you not only want to thin out the Calycanthus floridus, but also want to regulate its height, you should only shorten the plant by a few centimeters. Annual pruning is not absolutely necessary for the slowly growing plant. In addition, if the cut is too radical, the flower formation can suffer and become less lush.

Only use sharpened tools for thinning and cutting back and clean them before and after work. In this way, you avoid frayed wound edges, which only heal slowly and can penetrate the interior of the plants via the pathogens. The disinfection also prevents the potential spread of germs to other crops.

Hibernate the spice bush

The plant with the wine-red flowers is considered hardy and defies temperatures of down to -15 ° C for a short time. In particularly endangered winter regions, however, you should completely encase the spice bush in a protective fleece and cover the ground with mulch. This precautionary measure must also be taken for freshly planted spice bushes and potted plants. Do not remove the protection until spring, as soon as the temperatures are no longer in the double-digit minus range. Alternatively, you can overwinter the spice bushes in planters in dry rooms at a temperature of around 5 ° C.

Care and cultivation tips

Harmful insects and also fungal pathogens avoid the plant, which smells of spices. However, the Calycanthus floridus has little to oppose improper care and the growth and resistance of the plant suffer as a result. However, the North American plant is relatively easy to cultivate and can withstand short-term drought.

calycanthus in planters approximately every two to three years to be repotted. When the roots completely fill the pot, at the latest then you should move the plant into a larger flower pot. The best time for this is in spring, before the ornamental wood begins to shoot.

Neighboring plants
The intensely fragrant plant comes into its own as a solitary wood. Nevertheless, the plant can also be combined with other perennials and shrubs. In addition to oleander and angel’s trumpet, the bleeding heart and other calycanthus species have also proven themselves for group planting. However, a certain minimum distance between the individual plants should be observed.

The plant was used by the Indians against a variety of diseases and ailments. However, avoid such an application, because in addition to the highly poisonous seeds, the entire Calycanthus floridus is considered to be slightly poisonous.

Nursing errors and diseases

Discoloration of the leaves
Young plants are sensitive to prolonged exposure to sunlight. Leaf discoloration is often the first sign of hypersensitivity. Early and evening sun is well tolerated by the spice bush, get used to the plants slowly in full sun locations to the UV radiation. But even with over-fertilization and a too dry root ball, the leaves often show brown or yellow discoloration. Check the substrate and adjust the supply of fertilizer.

Root rot
This is the only fungal disease that affects the robust plant if it remains waterlogged for a long time. While the roots slowly decompose, the entire herb slowly dies. Immediately transfer infested ornamental trees to dry substrate; however, further measures or effective means from specialist shops are not known. You can only prevent this by loosening the soil with pebbles and watering the plants regularly with small amounts of water.

The real spice bush offers an impressive eye-catcher in your own garden with its dark foliage and its distinctive flowers. But the solitary wood dominates its location not only by its external appearance, but also by its smell of heavy spices. The plant itself is easy to cultivate and requires little care.

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