Spicebush is a deciduous shrub that has clusters of small yellow flowers. It is also known as wild allspice and resembles a forsythia shrub. Find facts and information on growing and caring for spicebush shrubs, (Lindera benzoin).
Spicebush grows in Zones 5-9 and will reach heights of 6-12’ by 6-12’ wide. This large shrub is grown mainly for its bright yellow fall foliage. It grows as a multi-stemmed understory shrub in its native habitat. With its light green leaves, it tends to fade into the background in summer.
Spicebush Flowers, Fall Color, and Uses
In early spring clusters of small yellow flowers hug the branches, giving a burst of color to the spring woods before most other plants have leafed out. Flowers grow similar to those of forsythia but are not nearly as showy.
The best fall color comes on plants grown in full sun. It does best in moist, well-drained soils in full sun or part shade. Plants grown in shade and dry conditions are more open in form and the fall color is not as pronounced. Plants like consistently moist soil throughout the growing season. Fruits on female plants are brilliant scarlet red in autumn but are small and must be viewed from close range.
Birds enjoy the fruit, so they will disappear fairly quickly. The plants are dioecious, so male plants must be nearby for fruits to set on female plants. The common name comes from the scent given off when the foliage or stems are bruised or crushed. This is a good shrub for naturalizing or for borders.
It is also an excellent choice for sites with moist soil and semishade, such as next to a stream or pond. It has been used in wetland reclamation projects in recent years. It can be grown on protected sites in Zone 4.
Growing and Caring for Spicebush Shrubs
Spice bush can be difficult to transplant because of its coarsely fibrous root system. It is somewhat slow to re-establish after planting. It will be helpful to have the soil well prepared beforehand. Water as needed if rainfall is insufficient. Apply a 2-4” layer of organic mulch such as wood chips or shredded bark to maintain moisture and keep soil cool.
Propagation can be done by sowing seeds in the fall. Collected seeds should be stratified for 30 days at warm temperatures followed by 3 months of cool temperatures. Cuttings of half-ripe shoots will root, but not easily.
Pests and Diseases are not a serious problem with this plant.
Related Benzoin Species:
‘Green Gold’ is a non-fruiting form with large, ornamental yellow blooms.
‘Rubra’ is a nonfruiting form with deep red-brown blooms.
‘Xanthocarpa’ has orange-yellow fruits.