A Shady Character: Sweetshrub

Our native sweetshrub (Calycanthus floridus) with its many common names—sweet Betsy, sweet bubby, strawberry bush, and Carolina allspice—is highly fragrant. Take a walk in your local woods in April and you will never forget the lingering sweet aroma of strawberries, banana and pineapple.

The flower is unique with overlapping maroon petals. Crush its glossy, dark-green leaves for a refreshing smell of spice. Even the twigs release a scent of camphor when broken, and can be dried and added to potpourri.


Sweetshrub / Rita Mercer

Use in the Garden
Plant sweetshrub near a window or pathway in order to enjoy the fragrance. The upright, somewhat rounded shape makes it highly effective mingled with other shrubs. It is equally beautiful as a specimen plant, especially in the woodland garden when paired with shade-loving perennials. In natural areas allow it to sucker freely to form an inexpensive mass planting. It also makes an eye-catching container plant.

How to Grow
Sweetshrub is tolerant of almost any condition; clay soils or sandy ones are equally fine. The shrub will grow up to 12 feet wide with adequate moisture and some sun, but I grow mine in shade where it tolerates drought once established and reaches 5 feet tall. The plant is easy to propagate—suckers can be dug and potted to share with your friends. Although pruning isn’t necessary, the shrub may be cut back after flowering to maintain a desired height and shape. Best of all sweetshrub is virtually pest-free, including deer resistant.

Rita Mercer gardens under majestic oaks in Apex, NC. Contact her for shade-gardening advice or take a virtual tour of her garden at

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