Content Detail

Carolina allspice is a dense, rounded shrub reaching 6 to 9 feet high. It has unusual, strap-like, maroon to reddish-brown flowers with a sweet banana-strawberry fragrance.  Fruit is persistent into winter as an urn-shaped brown seed pod. 

  • Family (English) Calycanthus
  • Family (botanic) Calycanthaceae
  • Tree or plant type Shrub
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale North America
  • Size range Medium shrub (5-8 feet), Large shrub (more than 8 feet)
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily), Full shade (4 hrs or less of light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8, Zone 9
  • Soil preference Acid soil, Alkaline soil, Moist, Sandy soil, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances clay soil, Occasional drought, Occasional flooding
  • Season of interest mid spring, late spring
  • Flower color and fragrance Fragrant, Purple, Red
  • Shape or form Broad, Irregular, Mounded, Multi-stemmed, Round, Thicket-forming
  • Growth rate Moderate, Slow

Native geographic location and habitat:

This shrub is native to the southeastern U.S.

Bark color and texture:

Smooth gray-brown bark is fragrant when scratched. 

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture:

Leaves are leathery, dark green, simple, and opposite. They are 2 to 6 inches long and elliptical to obovate, with yellow to yellow-green fall color. 

Flower arrangement, shape, and size:

Flowers appear before the leaves and are very fragrant with a strawberry-banana-pineapple scent. They are large, 2 inch wide solitary flowers with numerous maroon to reddish-brown strap-like petals.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed description:

Unusual, leathery, urn-shaped fruiting capsules ripen and turn brown in September-October, then persist into winter.

Plant care:

Carolina allspice is a 6 to 10 feet high and wide shrub with a growth habit that is typically rounded, but can be open and loose. It grows in sun to part shade, but thrives best in rich, moist soil in part shade. It should be planted in a protected area in windy sites. It is shallow-rooted and benefits from a layer of mulch to help conserve moisture. Prune after flowering. It may need renewal pruning if it becomes leggy.

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances:

No serious problems.

Aphrodite sweetshrub  (Calycanthus floridus ‘Aphrodite’):

An upright, 4 to 6 feet high shrub with bright red flowers.

Athens sweetshrub (Calycanthus floridus ‘Athens’): 

This cultivar is a dense, mounded 6 foot high shrub with yellow, very fragrant flowers

Related species

Hartlage Wine sweetshrub (Calycanthus x raulstonii):

This is a hybrid cross with showy, 2 inch wide, slightly fragrant, deep maroon flowers. Shrub reaches 6 to 8 feet high and wide and is excellent in sun or shade. Hardy to Zone 6 but may be difficult to find in nurseries.

Venus sweetshrub (Calycanthus ‘Venus’):  

This is a hybrid cross with white flowers with purple centers. The flowers are very fragrant but it does not produce fruit. 


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