How to Grow and Care for the California Sweetshrub

California Sweetshrub Flower Flickr peganum

peganum / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

The California sweetshrub (Calycanthus occidentalis) is a deciduous shrub that has its origins in that western state. It features maroon flowers that are richly fragrant. One interesting fact is that like magnolia trees and shrubs, the California sweetshrub is pollinated by beetles.

Latin Name

This shrub has been designated as Calycanthus occidentalis and included in the Calycanthaceae family. The other species in this genus is the Carolina sweetshrub (Calycanthus floridus). The species name occidentalis means western and in this case, indicates that it comes from the western part of the United States.

Common Names

You may see this plant named as the California sweetshrub, western spicebush, California spicebush, California allspice, spicebush, and Western sweet shrub.

Preferred USDA Hardiness Zones

California sweetshrub may be planted in USDA Zones 6 to 9. The common name is apt since this is indeed native to California.

Size and Shape

At maturity, the plant will be 4' to 15' tall and wide, naturally forming into a rounded shape.


You can plant this shrub in most locations since it can handle full sun to full shade.

Foliage, Flowers, and Fruit

The leaves bear a pleasant scent and are the inspiration for the name spicebush. The maroon flowers appear throughout spring and summer and give off a wine-like fragrance. The fruits are achenes that are aggregated within a capsule.

Design Tips

Deer tend to stay away from this shrub so it is a good choice if they visit your garden often. You can use this species as part of a landscape designed to control erosion alongside natural water features like riverbanks.

Growing Tips

Propagation may be done through taking cuttings or germinating seeds. California sweetshrub can handle clay, silt, and sandy soils.

Maintenance and Pruning

This species tends to send out suckers. You can help control them by keeping the shrub healthy and pruning away any that appear.

Pests and Diseases

This is a low maintenance shrub. Root rots may develop if the soil is soggy.