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One day in mid-Spring, you’ll catch a whiff of that delightfully different, delicious scent and know it’s Sweetshrub season! This beloved American Accent makes its presence known each spring when it opens it unusual, fragrant, dark red flowers. The scent is hard to describe and can vary from plant to plant. Sometimes it smells faintly fruity, other times it evokes ripe bananas and cantaloupe, applesauce, or pineapple upside-down cake. In any event, it’s a fine addition to your native plant garden! Sweetshrub’s dense, leafy stems provide good cover for songbirds and other small animals.
May Benefit & Attract: cardinals & grosbeaks, wrens, sparrows, thrushes, orioles, finches, mockingbirds & thrashers, vireos, hummingbirds
Take Birds Under Your Wing
New! Introducing our bird-friendly collection of Audubon® Native Plants & Trees
- Better for Birds, 100% Neonic-Free
- Not Available in non-native regions, states or counties (see Native Regions map)
Bower & Branch is proud to grow Audubon® Native Plants for Birds in partnership with the National Audubon Society to help birds and other wildlife thrive.
- The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow
- This bird-friendly native plant provides food and shelter for local and migrating birds and other wildlife
- Your purchase and planting of this native flora directly supports Audubon’s conservation mission and impact
- Learn how you can help birds in your home and community through Audubon’s Plants for Birds program
- Audubon Native Plants & Trees are free of neonicotinoids and exclusively grown by Bower & Branch
Audubon® is a licensed and registered trademark of the National Audubon Society. All rights reserved.
- Hardiness Zone: 4-9
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Sweetshrub is not on most people’s radar, but it is adored by native plant enthusiasts as well as by anyone who had one in their yard growing up. Some of our fondest memories are linked to pleasant scents! Like all old-fashioned, well-loved plants, it goes by several pet names, including Strawberry Shrub, Carolina Allspice, and Sweet Betty. Thomas Jefferson planted it at Monticello, and he called it by another nickname, “Bubby Flower.” Bubby Flower is native to woodland areas primarily in the Southeast, with the greatest concentrations in Alabama, Tennessee, North Georgia, and the Carolinas.
Botanically speaking, Sweetshrub is a rather primitive plant, related to Magnolias. These early versions of flowering plants evolved to be pollinated by beetles, not bees. Beetle pollination is less effective than bee pollination, but when successful, Sweetshrub will produce a smattering of odd, sac-shaped receptacles containing large, coffee-brown seeds.
How to Grow
In the wild, Sweetshrub can be found growing in deep shade, but its habit can become rangy there. It is much neater when given only light shade and moist, well-drained soil. Water regularly during dry spells. This is an easygoing plant that doesn’t need a lot of attention. No major insect pests or diseases trouble it, and deer tend to leave it alone. Pruning can be accomplished in summer, just after flowering winds down, if necessary—though it probably won’t be needed. Sweetshrub looks best when allowed to grow naturally and is not sheared or shaped.
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