Carolina Allspice, Calycanthus floridus

Calycanthus floridus, commonly known as Carolina Allspice, Sweet Shrub, or Strawberry Bush is a deciduous, erect, well-rounded shrub. It is native from Pennsylvania to Florida and as far west as Kentucky and Tennessee. It grows 6-feet tall by 10-feet wide. Carolina Allspice prefers well-drained, loamy soil but will grow in most soil types and likes sun to part shade. Carolina Allspice tolerates brief periods of flooding but struggles in sandy soil and drought.

Carolina Allspice is in the family Calycanthaceae. Genus names from the Greek word kaylx meaning calyx and anthos meaning a flower.

Carolina Allspice blooms from April to June. The flowers are fragrant and about 2-inches across. The flowers give way to brownish urn-shaped fruits (seed capsules) which mature in the fall and last all winter. The leaves turn golden for a beautiful fall color and are aromatic when bruised. Carolina Allspice should be pruned immediately after flowering to maintain compactness. The shrub blooms on last year’s wood and tends to sucker and form large colonies. The fragrance has been compared to strawberry, banana or pineapple. The aroma is stronger in hotter weather and the bush should be purchased in full bloom because the fragrance varies from plant to plant.

Carolina Allspice has a low flammability and poison rating. It is a trouble-free shrub and not bothered by many pests. It is deer and bunny resistant. Carolina Allspice attracts butterflies and pollinators and provides food for wildlife.

It is a welcome addition to a butterfly garden, children’s garden, cottage garden, pollinator, or native garden. It is a good screening plant and can be used as a privacy hedge. Because of its unusual fragrance, it is also a wonderful specimen plant. Planted near a patio or walkway, the fragrance is intoxicating.

Carolina Allspice will be added to the Brunswick County Botanical Garden this spring.

Information and photos by Jeanne Pavero