Cinnamon is a smaller, semi-tropical tree that can be easily grown as a wonderful indoor container plant or outdoors as a large spice tree that will just keep giving. Cinnamon can reach 4-5 feet indoors and up to 20-30 feet outdoors, with thick oval (or lance shaped) leaves about 4-7 inches long that turn deep green with age. It tends to be more hardy in the southern regions of the country. Cinnamon is harvested from the bark of the branches at least 2 years old. These trees can grow very rapidly and be traced back to the time of the Egyptians. Cinnamon has also played a crucial role in many facets of the world’s spice trade.
Choosing a location:
Cinnamon Trees prefer full to partial sun exposure. If possible, 7-10 hours of sun is best for growth and spice production although there have been great results with roughly 30% shade year round. A well draining soil is very important as Cinnamon trees do not like wet feet and if allowed to sit in water for extended periods of time, will lead to root rot. A mixture of soil, sand and perlite is highly recommended for proper drainage.
Planting directions (in ground): Cinnamon Trees are fast growing and require space to stretch out, so plant at least 10 feet from other trees or shrubs.
1) Dig your hole in a full to partial sun location and place your plant.
2) Gently comb the root ball with your hands to free the roots up a bit and position them downwards in the hole.
3) Add one ounce of a balanced, granular fertilizer formula into the tree’s soil while planting.
4) Backfill the hole gently tamping down the soil as you fill and then mulch the soil with compost. About 20 lbs. of compost will be needed at the time of planting.
5) Apply an additional 20 lbs. of compost in the spring season and add another ounce of the balanced, granular fertilizer then water the tree’s soil. Gradually increase the amounts until the tree gets to about 55 lbs. of compost and 10 ounces of fertilizer for each bi-annual feeding when it reaches 10 years of age.
Planting directions (potted): Cinnamon Trees grow very well in containers as long as you provide an adequate sized pot for root development. Select a pot 18-24+ inches in diameter and 20+ inches in height, with adequate drainage holes. Glazed pots require far less watering than raw terracotta pots due to their porous nature.
1) Select your pot and use a well draining, acidic potting mix (half perlite and half sphagnum peat moss) and set the pot on a windowsill where it will receive sunlight for a portion of the day.
2) Water when the soil feels dry at a depth of about an inch below the soil surface. Add just enough to where you see the water starting to escape the drainage holes and stop. Mist occasionally if indoor air is dry.
3) Fertilize from spring to fall every two weeks with a water soluble plant food and stop during the winter season.
*Tip: Whether growing your cinnamon inside or out, be sure to maintain a temperature NO LOWER than 60 degrees.
When watering Cinnamon Trees make sure to lightly soak the soil and then do not water again until the top 2 inches are dry. Depending on light conditions, location and foliage, watering may be required weekly or daily. Be sure to not over water, mucky soil will most likely lead to decay and kill the tree.
Allow your new tree at least two years of growth before harvesting. Avoid attempting to harvest cinnamon from an immature tree. After that, prune at any time for harvesting or to prevent plants from becoming too tall or wide. Every couple of years “coppicing” is encouraged. Cut the stems close to the ground and let 4-6 canes grow for about two more years. When pruning, try to maintain straight canes and when they reach about 2-3 meters high/2-5 centimeters in diameter, they are ready for harvesting.
It is recommended that you fertilize at the same time as you water using a time released fertilizer 10-10-10 formula or similar to help your Cinnamon Trees grow and produce a substantial crop. These trees are moderate feeders and may require multiple feedings during the growing season. It is important to follow the fertilizer’s label instructions as to not burn or kill the tree.
Wait 2-3 years after planting before harvesting your first canes. Once you harvest, you can do so again every two years. Young whips and mature wood make up the different types of bark you can harvest from the cinnamon tree. Score the bark without cutting all the way through it.
Young: Cut the whips into 3-inch segments. Score the bark lengthwise end to end, cutting just deep enough to loosen the bark. Peel off the bark, which will curl up naturally, and dry in an airy, warm, open spot like your kitchen counter. If you want a thicker layered, compact cinnamon stick, layer the pieces inside one another before setting them out to dry. Once the sticks have dried they can be shaved for the spice.
Mature: Cut stems into 3-inch segments making a lengthwise slice halfway into the stem, but don’t go completely through. Mature bark will not peel as easily as the younger. Scrape out the core and the inner lining then allow the remaining bark to completely dry out. This is where you may create a “quill” which is several pieces of the bark layered together.
***Cinnamon should be stored in a cool, dry place. Your harvest should be generous so be sure to label the containers with a date to ensure you use the older stock first. Keep your container closed TIGHTLY after each use, prolonged exposure to the air can cause a loss of flavor and aroma***
Mealybugs tend to be a common pest with cinnamon trees. They’re easy to control by using an organic insecticide called “Neem Oil.” This is inexpensive and easy to find at your local nursery or big box store that sells plants. Be sure to follow the application process on the bottle.