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Spice bush is a large deciduous shrub that is native to moist and shady habitats in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, north coast ranges and southern reaches of the Cascade range. It grows with a stiff branching habit reaching 8-10 ft. tall and as wide. Foliage is quite large and distinctive; leaves are deep green, rigid, 3-6 in. long and exude a spicy odor when crushed. Attractive maroon colored flowers accent the tips of the stems in spring.

This California native is widely adapted to shaded areas in Inland Empire gardens and is well suited to background and sloping areas where it provides bold and lush summer foliage character. It grows best in rich soils and regular summer water.

Water Needs

The spice bush grows well in partial shade in Inland Empire gardens with normal winter rainfall and regular summer water. The chart below provides a baseline irrigation schedule for this species. It should be noted there are several winter months marked by an asterisk (*) when rains can provide sufficient moisture and irrigation is not needed. The high and low range of moisture indicates it can grow with varying amounts of water; higher amounts of water within this range will result in stronger springtime flowering performance and summer foliage character.

Irrigation Schedule and Graph

Moderate Water Use Plants

Irrigation Schedule 3

  Jan* Feb* Mar* Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov* Dec*
Runs per Month 0x to 3x 0x to 3x 0x to 3x 2x to 3x 1x to 2x 1x to 2x 1x to 2x 1x to 2x 1x to 2x 2x to 3x 0x to 3x 0x to 3x
Inches per Run 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1"
Inches per Month 0" to 3" 0" to 3" 0" to 3" 2" to 3" 1" to 2" 1" to 2" 1" to 2" 1" to 2" 1" to 2" 2" to 3" 0" to 3" 0" to 3"

Range of supplemental summer water: 9"-16"
Range of supplemental winter water: 0"-15"

  Jan* Feb* Mar* Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov* Dec*
For more information on how to use this Irrigation Schedule and Graph, follow this link.

For information how to calculate your irrigation system’s schedule and precipitation rate, please follow this link.

Plant Properties

Plant Type: Shrub, Native
Foliage Character: Winter deciduous
Habit: Upright, Spreading, Mounding
Growth Rate: Moderate
Height: 8 ft. - 10 ft.
Width: 8 ft. - 10 ft.
Water Needs: Moderate 3
Foliage Color: Medium green
Flower Color: Burgundy
Flower Season: Spring
Soil Adaptations: Moist soil, Loam, Clay, Acidic soil
Exposure Adaptations: Morning sun, Moderate shade, Fog, Cold hardy
Function: Wildlife value, Screening, Residential spaces, Parks and open space, Foundations, Foliage accent plant, Flowering accent plant, Commercial spaces, Banks, Background plant, Fragrant foliage


Prune when dormant in winter as needed, often just to remove crossing branches that will develop over time. Older unmaintained plants will be dense and overgrown and can be coppiced by cutting all the way to the ground around December - January (3). Calycanthus is a lovely plant, but will burn in summer direct sun in inland gardens. It's not one of the easiest natives to keep looking good year round inland (S).



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