Spicebush: Plant Spotlight

The Spicebush plant, or Lindera benzoin, is a versatile and attractive native plant that is becoming increasingly popular among gardeners in Iowa. This plant boasts many desirable features, including its adaptability to a range of growing conditions, its attractive appearance, and its culinary and medicinal uses.

Spicebush plants are deciduous shrubs that can grow up to 12 feet tall, but are more commonly found at a height of 6 to 8 feet. The leaves are oblong and glossy, with a dark green color that turns to a bright yellow in the fall. The plant's most distinctive feature is its small, aromatic, yellow-green flowers that bloom in early spring before the leaves emerge. These flowers are followed by bright red berries that attract birds and other wildlife.

Spicebush plants are perennial, meaning they will come back year after year as long as they are properly cared for.

 Spicebush plants are well-suited to Iowa's climate, as they are hardy in zones 4-9 and can tolerate a range of growing conditions. They can be grown in full sun to partial shade and can adapt to a variety of soil types, including moist or dry soil.

There are several different types of Spicebush plants, each with its own unique characteristics. The most common variety is Lindera benzoin, which is native to the eastern United States. Other popular varieties include:

  • Lindera angustifolia: A smaller species that is native to Japan and has narrow leaves and smaller flowers.
  • Lindera aggregata: A species that is native to China and has larger leaves and red berries.

 Spicebush plants are relatively low-maintenance and easy to care for, but they do require some basic attention to ensure their health and longevity. Here are some tips for caring for your Spicebush plant:

  • Plant your Spicebush in well-draining soil in a location that gets partial to full sun.
  • Water regularly during the first year after planting, but then reduce watering as the plant becomes established.
  • Fertilize in early spring with a slow-release fertilizer that is high in nitrogen.
  • Prune lightly in the late winter or early spring to shape the plant and remove any dead or damaged branches.
  • Mulch around the base of the plant to help retain moisture and protect the roots from extreme temperatures.

Spicebush plants require very little maintenance beyond the basics listed above. However, if you notice any signs of disease or insect infestation, it's important to address them promptly to prevent further damage. Spicebush plants can be prone to leaf spot, powdery mildew, and scale insects, among other problems. Regularly inspect your plants for signs of trouble, and treat any issues with the appropriate fungicides or insecticides as needed.

 Some of the most popular Spicebush varieties include:

  • Lindera benzoin 'Wabash': A compact cultivar that grows to 4-6 feet tall and has a rounded habit.
  • Lindera benzoin 'Glaucus': A cultivar with blue-green leaves that grows to 10-12 feet tall.
  • Lindera benzoin 'Red Devil': A cultivar with deep red berries that grows to 8-10 feet tall.

In conclusion, Spicebush plants are a versatile and attractive addition to any Iowa garden or landscape. With their adaptability to a range of growing conditions, attractive appearance, and culinary and medicinal uses, they are an excellent choice for gardeners looking for a plant that is both beautiful and functional.