Cinnamon Plant Profile
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Where does cinnamon come from? Most well-equipped cooks have a jar of the fragrant powder or raw sticks in the pantry, and many people use cinnamon sticks for cooking and crafts. If you’ve ever tried to break a cinnamon stick in half, and noticed how hard it is, you’ve had a peek at the dried bark of the cinnamon tree. Although cinnamon plants hail from the tropics, you can grow them at home for years with the right care.
Full to partial sun
Rich, sandy loam
How to Grow Cinnamon Plants
Cinnamon plants, which eventually mature into trees, are accustomed to a tropical habitat with warm or hot, muggy weather. The cinnamon tree is not a long-lived specimen, and averages about 10 years of life.
Cinnamon plants usually require full sun, but in very hot and dry weather, they benefit from some afternoon shade.
Cinnamon plants grow where a natural layer of leaf mold in the jungle keeps plants nourished. Good drainage is also important. Heavy clay or hardpan soils are not a recipe for success. If your soil is poor, consider container culture.
Cinnamon plants like the regular rainfall they receive in the jungle, so you should try to replicate this with irrigation when rain is scarce. Keep the surface of the soil moist, and use mulch to keep the roots cool and moist.
Temperature and Humidity
Cinnamon plants like it warm and humid. In their native habitat, temperatures that average 80 degrees Fahrenheit promote healthy growth over the life of a cinnamon plant.
Cinnamon plants are light feeders. You can place a handful of timed release fertilizer in the planting hole to help plants get established; they don’t need further feeding.
Potting and Repotting
Start with a large container, at least 18 inches, to give your cinnamon plant room to grow and mature. Fill the pot with a lightweight loam. You can control the growth of your cinnamon plant by keeping it somewhat root bound. In indoor plant can remain in a 36-inch pot for the duration of its lifespan.
Propagating Cinnamon Plants
You can make new cinnamon plants from stem cuttings. Take a cutting and strip off all but a few leaves. Plant the cutting in moist potting soil, and keep it in a warm, partially sunny window. Cuttings are slow to take, and may not be ready to plant outdoors for several months.
Varieties of Cinnamon Plants
Cinnamon plants have the same growing requirement and appearance regardless of their species. Cinnamomum zeylanicum is often referred to as true cinnamon, and has the most clean and desirable flavor. Cinnamomum loureirii is widely coveted as a premium Saigon cinnamon from Vietnam. Cinnamomum burmannii is the most common cinnamon in the grocery store. Cinnamomum verum is also known as Ceylon cinnamon.
Toxicity of Cinnamon Plants
Cinnamon plants don’t need much pruning. You can remove branches to achieve a symmetrical shape, or to remove damaged branches.
A vigorous three-year old cinnamon plant is ready to harvest. Cut off individual branches, or cut the entire tree at the trunk. (Trees growing in the ground may produce new shoots that will become a new tree). Scrape away the outer bark until you see the yellowish-orange layer beneath, which is the cinnamon. Peel strips of this cinnamon layer with a sharp knife. The pieces must dry for about a week, and they will curl into the typical shape you see in stores as they dry.
Being Grown in Containers
Growing cinnamon plants in containers is the way to do it for gardeners living north of the tropics. Cinnamon trees can be kept to a smaller size in container culture, yet can still yield their fragrant cinnamon bark after a few years. Give plants a summer vacation outdoors to give growth a boost. Keep them in a south-facing window in the winter months, and mist to boost humidity.
Growing From Seeds
Birds relish the fruits of the cinnamon tree, but if you’re able to save some, you can start new plants from seed. Clean the pulp of the berries away from the seeds, and dry them thoroughly. Plant the seeds while fresh, as they lose viability quickly. Plant the seeds about an inch deep in pots filled with sterile potting soil. Keep moist and warm, at least 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Germination occurs in about three weeks.
Common Pests and Diseases
Fungal diseases can affect cinnamon plants growing under stress in excessively wet or shady conditions. Many of the insect pests that affect cinnamon plants, like the cinnamon butterfly and cinnamon gall mite, are not present outside of the tropics. Leafminers can also infect cinnamon plants, causing leaf drop. Apply insecticide as directed if the infestation is severe.
Cinnamon Plant vs. Allspice Plant
Ground allspice has an aroma similar to cinnamon, and allspice plants (Pimenta officinalis) grow in tropical areas of the world just as cinnamon does. One key difference between the plants is the way allspice is harvested: we eat the dried and ground berries of the allspice plant, whereas cinnamon berries are not edible. The leaves of the allspice plant also contain the spicy aroma, and can be added to soups and stews the same way bay leaves are used. Those who live in frost-free zones may grow a spice grove of cinnamon plants and allspice plants, as both love the same warm temperatures and sunny exposure.
Bring the tropics to your garden with a cinnamon plant (Cinnamomum spp.) Harvest the bark of a cinnamon tree you grew indoors or on the patio.
How to Care for a Cinnamon Tree
A cinnamon tree (Cinnamomum zeylanicum or Cinnamomum verum) can grow to 50 feet tall in the wilds of Sri Lanka. On cinnamon plantations, however, usually the tree is cut back drastically so it will produce thickets of new growth, the shoots of which are harvested for their curling inner bark. With long and reddish young leaves that gradually turn green, cinnamon tree also is used as an outdoor ornamental planting in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 and 11, where it is hardy, or as a houseplant elsewhere. During summer, the tree produces clusters of small, cream-colored blooms, which are followed by black berries. The berries are inedible for humans but attractive to birds.
Caring for the Tree Outdoors
Plant a cinnamon tree outdoors in fall to give it time to establish itself during the rainy season. Place it in sandy soil, at least 10 feet from other trees or shrubs and in partial shade.
Scratch 1 ounce of balanced, granular fertilizer into the tree’s soil, and water the soil. A balanced fertilizer contains equal amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Mulch the soil heavily with compost. Use about 22 pounds of compost at planting time, and apply an additional 22 pounds of compost in spring with another 1 ounce of balanced, granular fertilizer, and water the tree’s soil after applying the fertilizer. Increase the amounts gradually until the tree gets about 55 pounds of compost and 10 ounces of fertilizer at each biannual feeding when it is 10 years old.
Cover your tree with a frost cloth if the temperature may fall below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
Water the tree twice each week during dry periods while it is young, and mist it occasionally with a gentle spray of water from a hose. A cinnamon tree grows best in humid conditions.
Caring for the Tree Indoors
Grow a cinnamon tree indoors in a container that has drainage holes and light, somewhat acidic potting soil. An example is the kind of potting soil intended for African violets. Set the container on a windowsill where tree will get sunlight for at least part of the day.
Wait until the tree’s soil feels dry 1 inch below the soil surface before you water the tree. A cinnamon tree is subject to root rot if it receives too much water. Fertilize the tree every two weeks from spring to fall with a water-soluble plant food, but stop fertilizing it during winter. Mist it occasionally with water from a spray bottle if the indoor air is dry.
Watch for mealy bugs, pests that look like bits of cotton. Spray the tree with a neem oil solution if mealy bugs appear, repeating the treatment again one week later.
How to Care for a Cinnamon Tree. A cinnamon tree (Cinnamomum zeylanicum or Cinnamomum verum) can grow to 50 feet tall in the wilds of Sri Lanka. On cinnamon plantations, however, usually the tree is cut back drastically so it will produce thickets of new growth, the shoots of which are harvested for their curling …