Nutmeg: rising two tropical spices

When autumn comes to America, spice is all the rage. Baked goods, coffee and warm dishes represent autumn spice mixtures that we all know and love. Mace and the spice nutmeg accompany others in a variety of ways. But did you know that these spices both grow on a nutmeg tree?

Nutmeg and mace come from the tropical tree Myristica fragrans. Nutmeg trees come from the Spice Islands, an archipelago in eastern Indonesia. As early as the 16th century BC This region was one of the most important stations of the spice trade for European colonists.

Although nutmeg trees took a long time to find their way to America, here they are! And you can cultivate that distinctive, pungent scent that nutmeg seeds bring with you wherever they're added. In this guide, we're going to talk about how to grow your own nutmeg trees at home.

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Brief instructions for care

The canopy of leaves on the nutmeg tree itself can be a beautiful tropical shade. Source: wallygrom

Common name (s) Nutmeg, fragrant nutmeg, real nutmeg, mace
Scientific name Myristica fragrans
Days to harvest 150 to 180 days (from planting a full-grown tree)
Bright Part sun
water Up to 2 inches per week
floor Fertile, well drained
fertilizer Composted beef dung or occasional liquid fertilizer
Pests Cocoa weevil
Diseases Anthracnose leaf spot disease, thread rot

Everything about the nutmeg tree

Nutmegs split on the treeRipe products split on the tree, revealing the double flavor inside. Source: Jenny Mackness

Nutmeg trees (known scientifically as Myristica fragrans) produce both nutmeg and the spice known as mace. Fragrant nutmeg and mace are common names associated with nutmeg trees. The trees are the origin of the nutmeg that Americans know and love.

Nutmeg trees are native to the Spice Islands of Indonesia. Here Portuguese colonists acquired knowledge of the plant from the West Indies and took it with them to Europe in the 16th century. It was not until the 19th century that this tropical tree was cultivated outside of the Maluku Islands.

Nutmeg trees are evergreen with smooth, fragrant, dark green leaves that resemble those of magnolias. Female trees have 3 to 4 lobed petalless flowers. Male trees have up to 20 stamens per flower. Fully grown nutmeg trees grow to between 30 and 60 feet tall.

Through the pollination between male and female flowers, which is often carried out by a nocturnal beetle, nutmeg plants bear fruit in the form of drops of green to yellow tender flesh. Inside, the seeds are gray-brown ovals with a furrowed surface and a hard, red-colored seed coat. Long term oriented home growers will grow both a male and female tree and pollinate them by hand to produce nutmeg seeds. Trees produce nutmegs around 5 years old and the total lifespan of a tree is up to 60 years.

Fresh nutmeg pulp can be removed to expose the seeds that become dried nutmegs. Grated nutmeg is made into nutmeg powder, which is used as a spice around the world. The crimson aril that is on the hard surface of the seed is separated, gradually dried and used as a spice mace. Although these trees are specifically tropical, given the right conditions, they are easy to grow. Growers with greenhouses in cooler areas of the world can be just as successful as those in warmer areas.

The fruit itself is edible and you can use it to make nutmeg juice, a delicacy that is widely available in coffee shops in its home region. Those who have spread the benefits of this generous variety in their culinary practice have described it as surprising and surprising outside of the American context, for which most of us are familiar with spices like nutmeg.


If you buy nutmeg trees, wait until the roots have filled the nursery pot before transplanting them. Unless you live in tropical areas, plant your trees in a container. When growth does occur, gradually transfer the trees to containers more than 2 inches wide and deep as the last, making sure the roots aren't circling the pot. Finally, plant your trees in 5 gallon pots. Once the roots have filled this area, plant them in their final resting place – either in a container or in the ground.

Make sure there is at least 30 to 40 feet between the soil-grown nutmeg plants. Those grown in containers will work fine as long as they are in good condition. Since these are tropical plants, they should not be planted or transplanted in cool weather. Make sure they are in a sunny spot with good, constant humidity. Avoid areas with strong winds or cold, dry air. Give the plant fertile soil with good drainage.


Nutmeg on nutmeg kernelThe kernels, which we call the nutmeg, form around the nutmeg kernel. Source: bebopeloula

Nutmeg does great when it's established after planting. Let's discuss the framework for successfully growing nutmeg.

Sun and temperature

Nutmeg loves areas that are from full sun to partial shade to full sun 4 to 6 hours a day. They thrive in USDA Zones 10 and 11. Again, outside of this area, it's possible to only grow this tree in containers. The optimal temperature range for a nutmeg tree is 77 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore, it is best to grow this tree outdoors in an area with hot summers and mild winters, and to move container-grown trees to climates outside of this area.

Too much sun scorches the leaves of your tree, while too much shade deprives the nutmeg of nutrients. In addition, too much cold kills nutmeg easily, especially below 30 degrees Fahrenheit. If you are growing this tree in USDA zones outside of the ideal area, make sure you have a greenhouse or indoor space to protect your plant from weather extremes. Outside of the optimal temperature range, a nutmeg tree will stop blooming and drop fruit. Pollination becomes more difficult at this point. Keep it in this area and you are done!

Water and moisture

Pour nutmeg in the morning when the surface is 2 inches of soil dry. Water the tree in containers more often according to the same rule. Containers tend to dry out the soil faster.

In the garden bed or yard, a good 2 to 3 inch layer of mulch will help keep the soil moist. Place a drip irrigation line around the base of your tree, away from the trunk. If your tree is exposed to prolonged rain, avoid watering until the top layer of your planting medium is dry again. Don't let the soil dry out. Nutmeg is native to areas of consistently moist soil, so give it the same to be successful.

If you live in an area with less than 85% humidity, spray your tree regularly enough so that water collects on the leaves, but doesn't drip off. Do this up to 2 times a day, if necessary.


Use very fertile soil with good drainage to plant this tree in your garden. Most experienced nutmeg growers use a well-drained soil base with well-rotted manure (often cow dung) and a little sand mixed in. If you are planting directly in the ground, work in a good amount of composted manure before planting. Although nutmeg can survive on barren soils, it takes more than that to pollinate and bear fruit. In general, slightly acidic soil is best. Test your soil for a pH range between 5.5 and 7.0.


Since nutmeg grows in large quantities from well-rotted manure, it doesn't need a lot of extraneous nutrients. However, a monthly liquid application of a diluted organic fertilizer with a base NPK of 20-18-50 can't hurt. Gradually increase this amount each year as the tree grows. Alternatively, spread extra composted manure around the tree annually.

Do not fertilize when it is too hot or too cold. This could either encourage rot in your nutmeg roots or burn the plant.


In young trees, cut off branches that grow inward towards the trunk. As the nutmeg ages, the branches at the bottom of the tree should be pruned to raise the crown and give you space below. Some say that more branches mean more fruit, while others say that pruning will encourage fruit and flowers. You have plenty of time to play around with it and see what works best for you.

As the tree grows, have someone watch you prune tall branches. Alternatively, you can hire an arborist to help you shape the nutmeg. When the fruits are ripe, they split and fall to the ground. It can also be plucked from the tree just before the pulp splits if you plan to use the pulp as well. Since nutmeg is evergreen, it does not drop its leaves and is not deciduous.


Since nutmegs fall to the ground when ripe, they can land in optimal shade and in moist soil and multiply by themselves. Simply dig up the seedling with its new growth and transplant it into a gallon container with the same soil you would give your full grown tree.

Alternatively, you can remove and plant the seeds yourself. When the fruits and seeds fall, put the seeds in an envelope or paper bag and place them in the refrigerator. They remain viable for up to 45 days. Soak them in clean water for at least 24 hours, then plant them in 5-inch starter pots that are 1-inch deep. Keep the soil moist and in six to eight weeks you will have a sprouted nutmeg.

Work has been going on recently to graft male nutmegs onto female nutmegs. This is one way of producing a tree that will pollinate itself. When you have a fully grown female nutmeg, you can graft a male branch onto a healthy female tree.

Harvest and storage

Unripe and ripe nutmegsThe differences between ripe and unripe nutmegs can be seen here. Source: Leticia L

So you've completed the planting and soil maintenance, and you are well on your way to having your own ground nutmeg. Let's talk about the process of seed removal, processing, and storage of nutmeg. You will have a warm dry taste of these spices in any dish you like.


When the fruit opens to reveal the seed, the nutmegs are ready to be harvested. Either wait for the nutmegs to fall into the area where your tree is planted or use a long pole to remove them. Remember, you will not see ripe fruit until at least 5 years of healthy growth.

Separate the red aril from the seed coat. The seed coat must be separated from the seed as soon as the seed is completely dry. The casing can be composted or disposed of. The Aril should be dried in direct sunlight for 2 weeks. Then it can be ground in a mortar and pounded into powder.

To dry the nutmeg, leave it in the sunlight for 6 to 8 weeks until the nutmeg shrinks and the kernels rattle inside. This kernel is the nutmeg we know and love, so crack the outer shell and pull out your prize. The core itself can be ground with a Microplane grater or nutmeg grater. Note that the taste of freshly ground nutmeg is much stronger than that of stored powder. Use your senses of smell and taste to determine if you need to cut down on powder in your sauces, drinks, desserts, and meats.


Whole nutmeg (and its flavor) can be stored in a dry, airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 years. Ground nutmeg lasts up to 3 years.

Mace should also be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. It lasts 1 year but loses effectiveness after 6 to 8 months.

Having freshly ground nutmeg and mace for vegetables (like potatoes), meat, or to spread over various dishes is really nice.


Drop-shaped nutmegsThe fruit is round to teardrop-shaped and clearly visible on the leaves. Source: joegoauk73

Growing nutmeg can be tricky when the conditions aren't right. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Growing problems

If you grow nutmeg Soil that is not fertile or Soil that is not moist enough, it must not bloom or bear fruit. If the flowers have not yet grown, fertilize a little more than last year until the 7th year.

Nutmeg needs some shade. With too little shade, the leaves may scorch and nutmeg will fall from the tree. At the same time, too little sun they will not be able to synthesize their nutrients.

If you have your tree in a. plants Hole that's too deep or a Hole that is too shallow, it may not take root properly. Repot deeper shortly thereafter if you notice exposed roots.

Make sure you leave a small gap between the mulch and the tree trunk. This loophole prevents possible fungal or mold damage to the trunk.


Cocoa weevil digs a circular hole through the shell into the nutshell and eats the kernels. If you notice your nutmeg has a hole in it, treat your tree right away to avoid losing its kernel entirely. Weevils not only eat the core, but also lay eggs in the hole so the larvae can multiply. These are often treated with organic fumigants that are applied to cores. Plant plants that promote their natural predators like praying mantises, birds, and ladybugs, or bring these beneficial enemies into your garden. Organic spinosad spray is a good pesticide choice for weevils.


Anthracnose leaf spots is caused by the fungus Colletotrichum gloeosporioides and shows up as spots with yellow halos on the leaves of your tree. To treat leaf spots, use a 1% Bordeaux mixture (a mixture of copper sulfate, hydrated lime, and water) in liquid form and spray your leaves on. A liquid copper fungicide is also effective for easier, commercial treatment.

Thread rot is also caused by a fungus. Corticium spp. in this case is the causative agent. It produces either white or black silky threads that form an irregular network on the stems and leaves. This can also be treated with a liquid copper fungicide or a 1% Bordeaux mixture.

frequently asked Questions

Nutmeg fruit clusterA cluster of unripe fruits on the tree. Source: Lee Edwin Coursey

Q: Can I grow a nutmeg tree?

Answer: yes! It will take time, but once you get this plant established you will be so glad you did.

Q: Can you eat the nutmeg fruit?

A: The pulp around the fruit is said to be quite sweet and is popularly juiced in Asian countries. It has a different taste than the spice, but is very tasty!

Q: How long does it take for a nutmeg tree to grow?

A: Nutmeg will produce fruit after at least 5 years of healthy growth and proper pollination.

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