Lindera obtusiloba

Japanese spicebush

  • © Richie Steffen / Great Plant Picks

  • © Richie Steffen / Great Plant Picks

  • © Judy Newton

Outstanding Qualities

Japanese spicebush is a treasure for the Northwest garden. This uncommon large shrub grows in a wide, vase-like shape. Each leaf has a curious mitten-like shape that varies a little from leaf to leaf. Autumn transforms the plant into a glowing, golden yellow beacon. It is one of the few shrubs that develops excellent fall color even in shade. In late winter, tight clusters of bright yellow flowers open along the branches when few other shrubs are in bloom. Male and female flowers are borne on separate plants. Male plants have larger flowers, but female plants produce shiny black berries that hold on through late summer and fall. Use Japanese spicebush in open woodlands or bright shade. Good companion plants include Corylopsis pauciflora, any of the wonderful witchhazels, Mahonia nervosa and Taxus baccata 'Repandens'.

Quick Facts

Plant Type: vase-shaped shrub

Foliage Type: deciduous

Plant Height: 10 ft. 0 in. (3.05 meters)

Plant Width/Spread: 10 ft. 0 in. (3.05 meters)

Plant Height-Mature: 20 ft. 0 in. (6.10 meters)

Plant Width-Mature: 20 ft. 0 in. (6.10 meters)

Hardiness: USDA Zones 6 to 9

Flower Color: yellow

Sun/Light Exposure: light to open shade

Water Requirements: regular watering during dry weather

Seasonal Interest: autumn color

Colors & Combos

Great Color Contrasts: purple, chartreuse, silver

Great Color Partners: gold, dark green

Culture Notes
Plant Japanese spicebush in part sun and well-drained soil. Water it regularly during summer dry spells. It has a lovely form on its own, so minimal pruning is required.