Carolina Allspice Shrub: How To Plant, Grow Allspice Plant (Sweet Shrub) Bush

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Gardening | March 28, 2024

Woman with clippers looks at Carolina allspice shrubs after learning how to plant carolina allspice and sweets shrub bush, and the growing conditions and planting zones for allspice plants.

If you’re looking for a plant that smells like your favorite fruit smoothie, check out the Carolina Allspice.

This perennial “sweet” shrub grows 6 to 12 feet tall and thrives all over the southeastern United States.

It’s able to adapt to many kinds of soil conditions, is hearty enough to resist many common garden pests, and requires minimal watering once established.

Best of all, the showy red flowers on this plant have a deliciously fruity fragrance, which some describe as reminiscent of pineapple, bananas, or strawberries.

If you’re looking to grow a tree that offers a lot of return for relatively few headaches, Carolina Allspice could be just what you’re looking for.

Carolina Allspice

(Calycathus floridus)

Carolina Allspice image in an oval frame on a green background.
  • Characteristics: Flowering Perennial
  • Family: Calycanthaceae
  • Genus: Calycanthus
  • Leaf: Oval
  • Bark: Brown to brownish-red
  • Seed: Toxic
  • Blossoms: Red and fragrant
  • Fruit: Urn-shaped
  • Native Habitat: Southeastern U.S.
  • Height: Up tp 12 feet
  • Canopy: Up to 12 feet
  • Type: Deciduous
  • Native Growing Zone: 4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Ranking

Least Concern


Image Credit: Dinkum13

Planting Tips for Carolina Allspice

Even novice gardens don’t need to worry too much about planting tips for Carolina Allspice, as this plant is known for its resistance to disease and pests, as well as its adaptability to different conditions.

All you need to know is the best growing conditions and some other planting tips in order for it to thrive.

Best Growing Conditions for Carolina Allspice

The best-growing conditions for Carolina Allspice include moist hills, stream banks, and the moist edges of woodlands.

The tree thrives in almost any well-drained soil, especially loam. It needs sun but prefers partial shade.1

Thanks to its fragrant blossoms, the Carolina Allspice is a great option for planting along patios or walkways.1 It also makes an excellent privacy hedge.

When deciding where to plant this tree, consider not only ideal growing conditions but also its toxicity.5

It should not be planted where pets or young children may consume its toxic seeds. It can also be harmful to deer or farm animals.

Sweet Shrub

The Sweet Shrub is adaptable and low-maintenance, even if you don’t have a green thumb. Watering needs for Carolina Allspice plants are low.

Watering a tree is only necessary until it is established. After that, it needs no watering in native habitats except in times of drought.5

Add two inches of mulch around the tree to maintain proper moisture levels and protect roots from drying out.

If you’re asking, “How much sun does Carolina Allspice need each day?,” the answer is, not much. This plant can thrive in full sun to deep shade,1 though it can wilt in the hottest afternoon sun.

Soil conditions are flexible, and the plant can tolerate almost any well-draining soil. If you have your choice of soils when designing a garden, any loam will encourage Sweetshrub growth.

Sweet Bush

The Sweet Bush needs pruning to keep its round shape, and it’s best to do this as soon as the plant starts flowering each spring.1

Carolina Allspice is prone to a concept called suckering,6 in which new stems and shoots grow around the base. To avoid having these shoots take over your yard or harm your original tree, you will need to remove them as soon as you see them.

You can dig them out of the earth with a space or simply cut them with pruning shears, taking care not to damage the main trunk or branches.

Carolina Allspice Growth Rate

Wondering how long it takes to grow Carolina Allspice or the Carolina Allspice growth rate? Overall, this plant grows between 12 and 18 inches each year.5

Contrary to what you may expect, this plant grows taller in shaded places,2 so avoid planting it in full sun if you want to maximize its size. Exposure to the hottest afternoon sun can also cause the plant to wilt or droop.

How Far Apart To Plant Carolina Allspice

One question you must consider when adding this tree to your garden is how far apart to plant Carolina Allspice. To allow the tree to grow to its full potential, plant it at least 3 to 5 feet away from anything else in the garden.1

Planting trees too close together prevents proper air circulation, which can make it easier for some diseases to take hold.

Companion Plants For Growing Carolina Allspice

Companion plants for Carolina Allspice include any and all native plants to the southeastern U.S.

One idea is to plant more delicate flowers or bushes next to this tree,5 as the Carolina Allspice makes a strong, excellent windbreak that can protect other members of the garden.7

Closeup of two Sweet Shrub flowers with dark red petals on top of large, dew-covered green leaves.

(Image: Maura12)

Combining the Carolina Allspice with a variety of native plants is an easy and low-maintenance way to attract birds, bees, and other pollinators.

Growing a Carolina Allspice From a Seed, Cutting, or Seedling

While growing a Carolina Allspice from a seed, cutting or seedling is possible, this species is best propagated by seed.1 You can collect seeds in the fall and plant them directly in loam soil in the spring,5 as soon as the risk for frost is over.

If you’re wondering how long does it take for a tree to grow, plan for 12-18 inches of new growth each year.5 That means it could be close to a decade for the tree to reach its full height.

Top view of a Carolina Allspice plant showcasing a maroon flower surrounded by bright green leaves.

(Image: Ken Kneidel11)

If you decide to buy a young Carolina Allspice from a plant nursery, buy during spring or summer when flowers are blooming. Scents can vary widely among these blossoms,1 so pick one you enjoy when it’s in full bloom.

While some have a strong pineapple scent, others smell of strawberries, bananas, or a combination of other fruity scents. Flower colors can also vary.

While most are deep red or wine, some varieties grow yellow, orange, or even white flowers.

Carolina Allspice Growing Zone (Where To Grow Allspice Plant)

If you live in the right planting zones, especially in the southeast, the allspice plant is a fairly easy and low-maintenance addition to the garden.

The Carolina Allspice growing zone includes USDA hardiness zones 4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, and 9b.1 To determine if you live in one of these zones, you can check USDA’s website for more details.4

While southeastern Pennsylvania to southeast Kentucky,4 from the Florida panhandle to Louisiana are the true growing zones for Carolina Allspice, where to grow this plant really depends on local climate conditions. If you live in the right USDA hardiness zone, you can successfully grow this tree outdoors even if you don’t live in its native area.

How To Stop Carolina Allspice Disease

If you need to know how to stop Carolina Allspice disease, you’ll need to identify what kind you have. While the warty, bumpy bacterial crown gall can’t be treated, powdery mildew can.

This disease appears as a white coating on leaves,8 and can be treated with a simple plant fungicide.

Carolina Allspice disease prevention is fairly simple. Plants should be spaced properly to ensure adequate circulation,7 and pruning should be done at regular intervals to avoid overcrowding or dead branches, which can attract pests.

Calycanthus floridus

The mighty Calycanthus floridus is hearty and strong and resistant to things that can take down many other ornamental species.

Carolina Allspice Shrub Killer

The worst Carolina Allspice shrub killer is a condition called bacterial crown gall. You’ll know your plant has developed this disease if you spot a wart–like or bumpy growth in the area where the plant meets the earth.

This disease is fatal and can’t be treated.7 If your allspice develops bacterial crown gall, the only thing to do is dig up and dispose of the bush.

Even worse, the soil around the plant will also be contaminated, so you shouldn’t try to plant a new Sweetbush in the same spot.

Spicebush Pest Control

Spicebush pest control is relatively simple compared to keeping pests away from many other ornamental garden plants. Common pests of the Carolina Allspice include:7

  • Aphids
  • Whiteflies
  • Bark beetles

Because this tree faces few threats from pests, natural pest control for Carolina Allspice is a fairly easy process.

When it comes to aphids and white flies, a simple garden hose can usually wash them away. If this doesn’t do the trick, try an insecticidal soap.7

For bark beetles, the best natural pest prevention involves pruning the tree at regular intervals. This eliminates any dead branches or stems where bark beetles can establish homes and makes it easier to keep pests under control.

How To Identify Carolina Allspice

Wondering how to identify Carolina Allspice and distinguish it from other types of trees or shrubs?

Graphics with images and text showing how to identify Carolina Allspice, with photo of a full-grown Carolina Allspice plant, Carolina Allspice seed, Carolina Allspice flower, and Carolina Allspice leaves in circle frames on green background.

Take a look at some of the features of this plant so you can learn to spot one in the wild.

Carolina Allspice Plant

The Carolina Allspice plant grows 6-12 feet tall and its canopy is about the same width,1 giving it a round shape. In addition to Calycanthus floridus, its scientific name, goes by a large number of nicknames, and these are some of the most common ones you might see or hear when discussing this plant with gardeners:

  • Common Sweetshrub
  • Bubby bush
  • Spicebush
  • Sweet Betsy
  • Sweet Bubby bush
  • Sweetshrub
  • Strawberry bush

Carolina Allspice Leaves

Carolina Allspice leaves are thick, leathery, and glossy.2 They are oval in shape and dark green for most of the year, turning yellow in the fall and winter.

Carolina Allspice Flower

The Carolina Allspice flower is the true draw for people who love this tree. Dark brown or deep red in color, it transforms into a brilliant shade of wine or maroon when it blooms in the spring and summer.2

The strap-like petals overlap to form an ornamental blossom. Even better is its fruity fragrance, which intensifies in higher temperatures.1

Also interesting is that the bark of the plant has a similar fruity smell when it’s damaged to bruised.

Carolina Allspice Seeds

Carolina Allspice seeds are contained within an urn or capsule-shaped brown to red fruit. They can be collected in fall and winter and saved for spring planting, and are often easy to find spread around the base of these plants.

The seeds are toxic to humans and pets,3 and can cause convulsions, low blood pressure, and heart concerns if consumed.

The Carolina Allspice is an attractive ornamental plant whose beautiful maroon blooms smell as good as they look, making this an ideal choice for any southeastern gardener.

Frequently Asked Questions About Carolina Allspice

Why Is The Carolina Allspice Plant Nicknamed the Bubby Bush?

The Carolina Allspice, commonly known as the Bubby Bush, earned its nickname from women historically placing its crushed fragrant flowers in their bosoms as a natural perfume.9 The word bubby is almost certainly a more modern or polite version of “boobie” or “booby,” and the plant is still called the Bubby Bush or Sweet Bubby Bush to this day.

Is the Carolina Allspice the Same Plant That Produces the Kitchen Spice “Allspice"?

Allspice, a common kitchen spice, is derived from the Pimenta dioica plant, not the Carolina Allspice, which is inedible and has low levels of toxicity. Historically, the bark or leaves of the Carolina Allspice were sometimes used as a cinnamon substitute, and the Cherokee used its toxic seeds to poison wolves.10


1N.C. Cooperative Extension. (2023). Calycanthus floridus. NC State Extension. Retrieved December 22, 2023, from <>

2University of Texas at Austin. (2022, October 17). Calycanthus floridus. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Retrieved December 22, 2023, from <>

3Oregon State University. (2023). Calycanthus floridus. Landscape Plants. Retrieved December 22, 2023, from <>

4U.S. Department of Agriculture. (2023). 2023 USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map. USDA. Retrieved December 22, 2023, from <>

5Hassani, N. (2023, November 9). How to Plant and Grow Carolina Allspice. Better Homes & Gardens. Retrieved December 22, 2023, from <>

6Charlotte W. (2023, February 16). How to Control Tree Suckers & Water Sprouts. Retrieved December 23, 2023, from <>

7Aloi, P. (2022, June 10). How to Grow and Care for Carolina Allspice. The Spruce. Retrieved December 23, 2023, from <>

8Stauderman, K. (2023, July 29). Calycanthus floridus, Carolina Allspice, Sweetshrub. University of Florida. Retrieved December 22, 2023, from <>

9Ellison, G. (2007, September 26). Sweet bubby bush. Smoky Mountain News. Retrieved December 22, 2023, from <>

10Duke University. (2023). Garden Talk. Duke Gardens. Retrieved December 22, 2023, from <>

11Photo 267635838 (Carolina Sweetshrub) Photo by Ken Kneidel. (2023, April 14) / CC0 1.0 DEED | CC0 1.0 Universal. Resized and changed file format. iNaturalist. Retrieved December 22, 2023, from <>

12Photo 271921063 (Carolina Sweetshrub) Photo by Maura. (2023, April) / CC0 1.0 DEED | CC0 1.0 Universal. Cropped, resized, and changed file format. iNaturalist. Retrieved December 22, 2023, from <>

13Calycanthus floridus – Parc floral 4 by Dinkum. (2013, June 30) / CC0 1.0 DEED | CC0 1.0 Universal. Cropped and remixed with text, shape, and background elements. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved December 26, 2023, from <>

14Carolina Allspice Identification Graphic: Calycanthus floridus 0.11 R Photo by Rob Hille / Public domain. Cropped and remixed with other images, shapes, text, and background elements. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved December 22, 2023, from <>