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How to Grow and Care for Clove Trees

Bearing tiny flower buds in reddish-pink hues, the clove tree (syzygium aromaticum) is an evergreen tree that grows slowly but can live for over a century—easily reaching its 100th birthday and beyond.

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Renowned for its smooth bark and aromatic foliage, the clove tree trunk exhibits either green or grayish-yellow hues.

The dried flower buds of the tree are utilized as a culinary spice to flavor various food dishes, beverages, and desserts. Additionally, its distilled oil is incorporated into perfumes and other products for added fragrance.

Originating from the Maluko Islands of eastern Indonesia, clove trees derive their name from either the Latin word “clavus” or French word “cloud.” Presently, they are commercially cultivated in India, Jamaica, the West Indies, Brazil, Sumatra, and other tropical regions.

Capable of reaching heights between 15 to 30 feet, the clove tree boasts long leaves and dark reddish-pink flowers. Interestingly, this tree produces both male and female flowers on the same plant.

  • Common Name: Clove tree, tropical myrtle, Zanzibar redhead
  • Botanical Name: Syzygium aromaticum
  • Family: Myrtaceae (myrtle)
  • Plant Type: Broadleaf evergreen
  • Mature Size: 15-30 ft. tall, 10-20 ft. wide
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
  • Soil Type: Rich, Loamy
  • Soil pH: Neutral to acidic
  • Bloom Time: Summer
  • Flower Color: Reddish-pink
  • Hardiness Zones: 11-12, USDA
  • Native Area: Maluko Islands of eastern Indonesia

Care for Clove Trees

Clove trees typically begin to bloom within six to 10 years of planting and reach full maturity (and optimal harvest) between 15 to 20 years.

These trees are somewhat delicate and grow at a moderate pace. The spice crop can be harvested from the buds (when they’re under two centimeters) in approximately four to six months. The best time for harvesting is when the clove buds transition from green to slightly pink. Harvesting demands careful handling, as branch bending or breakage can damage the yield quality.


Clove trees thrive in full sun to partial shade, with young trees benefitting from some shade.


They flourish in rich, loamy soil with good drainage, preferably enriched with organic matter.


Clove trees require consistent moisture, with some gardeners opting for drip irrigation systems for optimal results. However, care must be taken to avoid waterlogging or oversaturation, as these conditions can lead to root rot. The first three to four years of a clove tree’s life require the most frequent watering.

Temperature and Humidity

Clove trees thrive in a humid tropical or subtropical climate, necessitating constant temperatures above 50 degrees Fahrenheit, with ideal ranges between 70 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit.


Regular fertilization promotes growth and yield. Well-composted manure is typically applied from May through June, with additional fertilizer applied in shallow trenches around the plant during early fall.


Extensive pruning isn’t necessary, but trimming branches to the desired height post-harvesting is common. Remove dead or damaged branches and leaves as needed.

Propagation of Clove Trees

While clove trees can be propagated through cuttings, seed propagation is preferred.

How to Grow Clove Trees from Seeds

Seeds are best propagated in mid-summer, immediately following harvesting. Once fruits ripen and fall naturally from the tree, seeds can be soaked overnight or sown directly into the garden. Seeds should not be covered with soil, as they require light to germinate. Alternatively, if germinating in containers, cover pots or seed trays with plastic to increase humidity levels. Germination typically occurs within six weeks.

Fresh seeds are recommended, as dried seeds are less likely to germinate. If immediate planting isn’t possible, store seeds in soil until ready.

Container Gardening

Clove trees can be grown in containers, albeit with limited height compared to outdoor planting. Containers should be at least 18 inches in diameter with proper drainage. Fill containers two-thirds full with moist soil, placing seeds directly on top. For rooted seeds, gently press below the soil surface.

Containers should be placed in bright areas with indirect sunlight, maintaining consistent room temperatures between 65 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Pests and Diseases

Various pests and diseases can affect clove trees, including Sumatra disease, eucalyptus canker, coconut scale bugs, and Oriental fruit flies. Prevention and treatment methods vary based on the specific issue encountered.