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Carolina Allspice

Carolina Allspice (Calycanthus floridus)

At first glance is Carolina allspice (Calycanthus floridus) a rather inconspicuous plant in the garden. At second glance, the qualities are revealed: the very dark, specially formed flowers and the intense spicy fragrance make it a fascinating plant for any aromatic garden and shrubbery. There is also a white flowering form. This pretty shrub, also known as spicebush, is an interesting addition to any garden. It thrives in a sheltered location and always needs enough moisture. Otherwise, it is easy to maintain and grows easily into a stately, well-formed shrub with healthy, glossy foliage. It is a resistant plant with few problems that is easy to maintain. You only have to water it regularly.

A Shrub with a Strawberry Aroma

The Carolina allspice shrub (Calycanthus floridus) comes from Florida. Its monoecious, single flowers show up in May and June. They form on the short side shoots of the perennial branches. There are unique, bowl-shaped flowers whose petals are spirally arranged on the inside. At the very bottom of the flower lies a bud that forms the true genital organ of the flower. This opens only when the visible flower has already faded. Calycanthus floridus 'Aphrodite' is a special breeding of the Carolina allspice shrub. It has much larger flowers that are similar in shape to magnolia flowers, and they appear a little later in June and July and have an intense brown-red colour. Throughout the summer, the shapely shrub smells of strawberry, and thanks to its shiny foliage, it always looks fresh and appealing. In addition, there is a form of this spicebush with white flowers, Calycanthus floridus 'Venus'. It bears magnolia-like, pure white flowers with a red eye on the inside. In addition, this pretty compact growing shrub trumps at the end of the season with its yellow autumn colour. Since the growth is more compact, the white-flowered form can also be grown in a pot on a balcony. However, it does not tolerate waterlogging, but it must never dry out. Otherwise, these plants are easy to maintain and are hardly affected by pests.

   
 
   
 
Gewürzstrauch, Nelkenpfeffer (Calycanthus)

Special Flowers for Beetles

The leaves of the Carolina allspice smell of camphor, cloves and cinnamon, and the flowers sometimes smell slightly like strawberries in the evenings, depending on the variety. The bark of all of these plants smells strongly of cinnamon when it is slightly scratched. In small quantities, it can be used as a spice. Even as a solitary plant, the spice shrub will do well. Its leaves are shiny on the top and on the underside they have a dull grey-green colour. In autumn, the leaves of the spicebush take on a pale yellow colour. The flowers of this easy to care for garden plant appear in May and June on the short side shoots of perennial branches. Carolina allspice has very special flowers, with spiral-shaped, long petals that stretch out from each flower like little octopus arms. These unique flowers are pollinated by different species of beetles. They are hardly affected by pests. Oil can also be obtained from the flowers and it is used in the perfume industry. In autumn, the flowers form brown capsule fruits with hard, irregularly shaped shells.

The Best Location for Carolina Allspice

Carolina allspice comes from the southeastern part of the United States. As the botanical name Calycanthus floridus says, it occurs wild in Florida. There are only four species of spice plants (Calycanthus) worldwide. One comes from China and the others come from temperate zones in North America. Carolina allspice likes a partially shaded, sheltered site in the garden, where it is not directly in the midday sun. Otherwise, its petals can dry quickly. The soil can be sandy to loamy, but it is important that the roots of the shrub find enough humus. This shrub should be moderately dry to moderately moist and it should never completely dry out. Regular watering is mandatory in dry weather. Moreover, this plant needs little special care. This shrub tolerates lime, but it can also grow well near rhododendrons, especially since it likes rather moist soil. It grows up to three metres high and two metres wide, so it needs enough space in the garden. It has a bushy, upright habit. Over the years, it grows into a rather wide, spreading bush. The flowers appear in May and June. Its olive-brown bark gets matted over the years.

Planting Carolina Allspice

Before planting, the soil should be loosened at the site and enriched with compost and humus. Therefore, the planting hole should be dug much larger than the size of the root ball. Once the hole is prepared, the plant should be carefully removed from the pot. Then you have to tear open the root ball; the roots must not be tangled, otherwise, the tree will grow badly. When the roots are loosened well, they should be spread fan-like in the planting hole, then the hole can be filled with soil and compost. It is important that the spicebush in the garden is the same height as it was in the container. Water well after planting. The soil should then be covered with compost or bark mulch to store the moisture. Occasionally, Carolina allspice should be given some compost again because it blooms much better if it has enough nutrients. The mulch layer should also be renewed once a year. Apart from this is does not need much care. But what is important is this: during dry periods, it must be regularly watered. The spicebush should never dry out in the garden. Because it needs a lot of water, it is less suitable for growing in a pot. If it is planted in a container, you have to think about watering it every day. Basically, it is not necessary to cut this shrub. If the bloom decreases a little with age, you can cut three to four shoots from the crown to rejuvenate the bush. Otherwise, this rule of thumb applies to this shrub: cutting less is better than cutting too much. From time to time, the young shoots can be attacked by aphids. These can be simply washed off with a wet sponge. Otherwise, the spice shrub has little problem with pests or diseases.

Can You Use Carolina Allspice as a Cinnamon Substitute?

Yes, in principle, but only in small quantities. The bark of Calycanthus floridus was already used by the North American Indians for seasoning and healing. In addition to the fragrances and flavourings, it also contains toxic alkaloids. Therefore, it may only be used in small quantities. The egg-shaped, up to 12 centimetres long leaves containing camphor-like substances can be used as moth protection in closets. This easy-care plant thus also finds its use beyond the garden.

Propagation

For propagation, the fruits of the Carolina allspice can be harvested in autumn. Collect the seeds and then sow them directly in the open in seed trays. They must be cold during the winter so that the germination protection layer is broken. In the spring they will germinate quite reliably. The propagation is faster if the suckers are used. Older spicebushes in particular like to make occasional runners and will propagate themselves, but not so strong that it would be a problem. The suckers can be removed and planted individually in pots for propagation. This is best done in autumn and then the pots should be placed in a sheltered place, preferably in a greenhouse. Once they have enough roots, the plants can be planted in the garden. Cuttings from branches, however, are not ideal, as they are difficult to root and propagate since this type of propagation requires professional equipment. On the other hand, what works quite reliably for self-propagation is pinning a ground-level branch of the bush to the ground with a metal hook. This branch then forms its own roots within one season. Once it has enough roots, it can be cut from the mother plant and potted individually in a small container.

 

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