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How to Grow a Spicebush Plant

Spicebush is a deciduous shrub that grows six to ten feet high. It is most often planted near the back of the shrub boarder or as a foundation planting. It likes partial shade and in its natural habitat grows as an understory plant, beneath deciduous trees and larger shrubs. Yellow flowers bloom in April or May, followed by green berries that ripen to a bright red in autumn. The berries are used as both a sweet and a savory spice, with flavors similar to both nutmeg and pepper. The bark is an olive-brown and can be used to make a warming tea. Spicebush is native to the Americas and is winter hardy through USDA Zone 4.

Pick the site for spicebush. They like full sun to partial shade and will grow and thrive in soil that is sandy, clay or in-between. They prefer soils that are moist to wet, but will adapt to average or dry soils.

Prepare the site. Dig a hole that is about two feet wide and two feet deep. Mix the soil you removed with a five gallon bucket of peat moss and at least half that amount of compost. Use your garden fork to loosen the soil at the bottom of the planting hole.

Add some of the improved soil back into the planting hole, so that the spicebush will be planted at the same level that it was growing in its nursery pot.

Place the root ball of the spicebush into the prepared hole. Gently spread the roots toward the edge of the planting hole. Back fill the hole with soil half way, firming it gently but firmly with your foot.

Fill up the half-filled planting hole with water and let it drain. Repeat.

Back fill the hole the rest of the way with soil, firming it with your foot.

Use your hands to make a dam of soil around the outside of the planting hole to catch rainwater for the roots.

Put hose with a slow trickle of water near the base of the spicebush and water it in for about 60 minutes. Thereafter, provide your spicebush with the equivalent of an inch of rainfall per week.

Mulch the area around the base of the spicebush with a four to six inch layer of organic mulch. Use straw, wood chips or shredded bark.

Fertilize in early spring and again in midsummer. Pull back the mulch and sprinkle granulated fertilizer specially formulated for deciduous shrubs, following the manufacturer's recommended rate of application. Replace mulch.

Prune only as needed to maintain the desired size and shape of your spicebush.

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