is a cross between the California allspice and the
Chinese wax plant.
first time I saw the native sweetshrub I instantly fell
in love with it, the small deep burgundy flowers and
fragrance was an instant lure. I would see them at old
homes and plant swaps but not so much in the
is known botanically as Calycanthus floridus and is
native in more than 20 states in the Eastern United
States, as far north as New York. In addition to the
name sweetshrub, it is also called Carolina allspice and
spicebush. Those names sound pretty marketable to me.
western United States is not without its own version.
The California allspice, Calycanthus occidentalis is
somewhat similar, thinner petals and a little less
fragrance. Both native versions, however, have been used
in breeding to turn the sweetshrub world upside down.
first is Hartlage Wine developed by North Carolina State
University. My horticulture coordinator at the Coastal
Georgia Botanical Gardens planted one in our shade
garden under the guise of sweetshrub a most pleasant
May as I was taking a walk to survey how things were
progressing I felt as though I had found a treasure.
Hartlage Wine was blooming, and I instantly recognized
it as sweetshrub but ‘Holy Wow’ the flowers were
larger than tennis balls and yielded a pleasant
Wine was created by an NC State grad student Richard
Hartlage making a cross with the native Calycanthus
floridus and the Chinese wax plant one Calycanthus
chinensis. A long bloom period and fall yellow color
make this plant have award winner written all over it
and needs to be in woodland gardens everywhere.
Carolina State University, Mills River, NC also made an
outstanding cross called Aphrodite. It is a hybrid
between the California allspice and the Chinese wax
plant. Aphrodite has even more fragrance, a longer bloom
period and flowers showing a little yellow in the
fragrance is your goal however than look for Venus.
Venus also a N.C. State product is a cross between all
three, C. floridus, C. occidentalis and C. chinensis.
The result is a flower that is white, magnolia-like with
all of the sepals or tepals opened and bringing you
under the ‘spell of the smell’ that has been
described as the scent of strawberries and melons.
shrubs are cold hardy from zones 5-9 and perform best in
fertile, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade.
The more sun the moisture will be needed. At the Coastal
Georgia Botanical Gardens, we had ours planted under
tall pines with high shifting light. The results couldn’t
be more perfect.
yours to reach 5 to 10 feet tall and as wide depending
on variety. As true to the native species expect then to
offer root suckers. Remove these to create a more
picturesque structure. The yellow fall color is a great
addition to the woodland garden where it will stand out
from quite a distance. Many will be ecstatic to know
these are not on the deer menu!
sweetshrub of our grandparent’s era was nice, but
these are better and so much showier. What’s extra
special is that now they are available in garden
centers. I hope you will plant some and make some
fragrant memories for your children.