How to Grow Clove Trees

Clove tree (close-up)

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With a small, reddish-brown flower bud, the clove tree (syzygium aromaticum) is a slow-growing but long-lived tree--they can easily survive to their 100th birthday and beyond. The clove tree trunk is known for its smooth bark and either green or grayish-yellow aromatic foliage. The pungent clove spice that's used in an array of meals, drinks, and desserts is a result of harvesting the tree's dried, unopened flower buds. 

The name of the clove tree is believed to be derived from either the Latin word "clavus" or French word "cloud," and they are native to the Spice Islands and the Moluccas. Today, the clove tree is typically grown in India, Jamaica, West Indies, Brazil, Sumatra, and other tropical climates.

The clove tree can grow to 15 to 30 feet tall and it has long leaves and white flowers.

Botanical Name Syzygium Aromaticum
Common Name Clove, Clovos, Caryophyllus, lavangam
Plant Type  Spice, Tree
Mature Size 15-30 feet
Sun Exposure Full Sun
Soil Type Rich, Loamy
Soil pH 6-7
Bloom Time Summer
Flower Color White
Hardiness Zones 11-12, USA
Native Area Spice Islands/Moluccas (Indonesia)

Clove Tree Care

After planting, the clove tree will begin blossoming within six to 10 years and will reach full maturity (and produce the best harvest) at the age of 15 to 20. Since these trees require moist soil, you can improve soil conditions by covering the freshly-planted seeds with a plastic sheet after planting.

Cloves are quite delicate and will grow fairly slowly; the seed germination process will take about six weeks. It will take about four to six months to harvest the crop from the buds (when they're less than two centimeters). The optimal harvesting time is when the clove buds change from a green to slightly pink color. Harvesting is a very delicate process, as the quality of yield can be destroyed if branches are tilted or broken.

Light

Clove trees will grow best in full sun to partial shade.

Water

These plants require continuous water. Some gardeners opt for a drip irrigation system for best results, particularly during the summer months when the plants may require additional watering. Just be sure that the soil doesn't become waterlogged or too soggy, as these conditions can lead to root rot. The clove tree will require the most frequent watering in its first three to four years of growth.

Soil

As long as your soil has good drainage, the clove plant will thrive in rich, loamy soil (preferably with organic matter).

Temperature and Humidity

The clove plant prefers slightly cooler temperatures with ample rain, which will help its flowers grow and produce the highest yield. However, they do require either humid sub-tropical or tropical climates to grow--the temperature must remain above 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Fertilizer

Cloves will grow and produce best when provided with regular fertilization. An organic manure can be applied from May through June. In the early fall months, fertilizer can be applied in shallow trenches dug around the plant.

Propagating Cloves

Sowing seeds is the most common method of propagating clove trees, but they can also be propagated via cutting.

It's best to attempt propagation in the middle of the summer, and seeds should be planted immediately. After fruits are allowed to ripen on the tree, they will naturally fall and their seeds can either be soaked in water overnight or sown directly into the soil.

Recently harvested seeds will grow best, as if they become dried out they are less likely to germinate.

Pruning

The clove tree will not require extensive pruning, though its branches can be cut back to the desired height after harvesting.

Growing in Containers

Clove plants can be grown in containers, though they will not grow as tall as when planted outdoors. Containers should be at least 18 inches in diameter and have a proper drainage system.

The pot or container can be filled about two-thirds full with moist (but not soggy) soil, and seeds can be placed directly on top of the soil. If a clove seed is already rooted, then they can be gently planted below the surface of the soil.

The container should be kept in a bright spot with access to indirect sunlight, preferably in a room with a temperature that remains consistently between 65 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Common Pests/Diseases

Though clove trees are not associated with any particular pest problems, they can be susceptible to issues such as sprouted wilt, leaf spot, root rot, scale, and mealybugs.