True Cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum)

Ceylon cinnamon, Ceylon cinnamon tree, Cinnamon, Cinnamon bark tree, Kayu Manis, True cinnamon

Cinnamomum Verum, also known as the real cinnamon tree or Ceylon cinnamon tree, is a tiny, evergreen tree that is indigenous to Sri Lanka and is a member of the Lauraceae family. Cinnamon is also made from the inner bark of a number of different species of Cinnamomum. There are several varieties of cinnamon. Common cinnamon varieties include Cinnamomum Verum (Ceylon cinnamon) and Cinnamomum Aromaticum (Cassia cinnamon or Chinese cinnamon). This article focuses on the uses of Cinnamomum Verum and how to grow and care for it.

I. Appearance and Characteristics 

Cinnamomum verum (Cinnamomum zeylanicum, also called true cinnamon tree or Ceylon cinnamon tree) is a small evergreen tree belonging to the family Lauraceae, native to Sri Lanka. The inner bark of the tree is historically regarded as the ‘spice’ cinnamon, though this term was later generalized to include C. cassia as well.

Cinnamomum verum trees are 10–15 metres (30–50 feet) tall. The leaves are ovate-oblong in shape and 7–18 cm (3–7 inches) long. The flowers, which are arranged in panicles, have a greenish color and a distinct odor. The fruit is a purple 1 cm (½”) drupe containing a single seed.

The old botanical synonym for the tree, Cinnamomum zeylanicum, is derived from Sri Lanka’s former name, Ceylon. Sri Lanka still produces 80–90% of the world’s supply of C. verum, which is also cultivated on a commercial scale in the Seychelles, Madagascar and Tanzania.

Cinnamon bark is safe for the majority of individuals when taken by mouth in proportions used for medicine, while it is likely safe when consumed in food levels. Cinnamon oil can be irritating to the skin and mucous membranes, including the stomach, intestine, and urinary tract, making it inappropriate to take by mouth. It may have unwanted side effects, including nausea, vomiting, sleepiness, dizziness, and others.

II. How to Grow and Care

Sunlight

True cinnamon tree requires lots of sun to grow tall and healthy. While it can survive in partial sunlight, full sun is best. If your true cinnamon tree is an indoor plant, place it by a window that receives full sun through the day.

Temperature and Humidity

Cinnamon plants love a warm and humid climate. In their native habitat, temperatures that average 80 degrees Fahrenheit promote healthy growth. They don’t do well when temperatures fall below 40 degrees Fahrenheit or in very dry conditions.

If you garden in a cold climate north of the plant’s cold hardiness zone, you can grow cinnamon in containers in a greenhouse or keep the container outdoors during the summer months and overwinter it indoors as a houseplant.

Watering

This tree requires a moist, tropical environment with lots of water. In its natural environment, true cinnamon tree receives around 150 days of rain each year. Depending on your climate, you will need to regularly water your plant so that the soil is always slightly moist. Always check that the top 5 cm of soil is dry before watering again. Because of the chemicals in tap water, filtered water or collected rainwater is best. If growing indoors, lightly mist the leaves every week.

Soil

Cinnamon plants prefer a rich, well-draining soil. A sandy loam will work well. Cinnamon plants don’t do well in waterlogged soils, and thus heavy clay or hardpan soils are not a recipe for success. If your garden soil is not suitable for growing cinnamon, grow it in containers to provide the type of well-drained, sandy loam soil l it needs.

Fertilizing

Your true cinnamon tree should be fertilized every 2-4 weeks from spring to fall, with an 8-3-9 fertilizer. A quarter cup of fertilizer per 4.5 m squared of root zone space is ideal. Be sure to spread this to the outer edges of the root zone too, so that all of the roots will benefit. Indoor plants will need to be fertilized in the winter too.

Planting Instructions

Given perfect conditions, true cinnamon tree can reach 12 m in height and up to 6 m in width, so leave at least 1.2 m of space between each plant. Choose a warm and dry day in the fall, and dig a hole 30 cm deep and twice the size of the rootball. After planting, water well. If planting in a container, make sure that it is well-draining, and at least 51 cm wide and 61 cm deep. You will need to re-pot every 2 years to accommodate your tree’s growth.

Pruning

If left to grow naturally indoors, true cinnamon tree will grow over 2.5 m tall. If desired, this shrub can be pruned down to 91 cm without causing damage. The tree can be pruned at any time of the year to prevent it from looking untidy.

When the true cinnamon tree is grown outside in the right conditions, it will produce lots of little white flowers in the summer. These will naturally die and drop off, but some choose to deadhead for aesthetic purposes.

In the summer, you may also notice small black berries growing on your tree. Again, these do not need to be pruned but can be if desired. Be aware that, although tasty-looking, the small berries that this plant produces are not edible for humans.

Propagation

You can propagate new cinnamon plants from stem cuttings in the spring or early fall.

  • Take a cutting roughly six inches long, and strip off the lower half of the leaves.
  • Plant the cutting in a moist potting mix, and keep it warm, ideally on a sunny windowsill.
  • Watch the cuttings for slow-forming roots. This may take several months.
  • Transplant outdoors in a pre-dug hole large enough to accommodate the root ball and backfilled with topsoil.

How to Grow from Seed

Birds relish the fruits of cinnamon plants. But if you’re able to save some, you can start new plants from seed.

  • Clean off the berry pulp from the seeds, and dry them thoroughly.
  • Plant the seeds while they’re fresh, as they lose viability quickly.
  • Plant them about an inch deep in pots filled with a sterile seed-starting mix.
  • Keep them moist and warm at around 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Watch for germination. This should occur in about three weeks.
  • Transplant to a larger container or to your garden once established.

Potting and Repotting 

Gardeners north of cinnamon’s cold hardiness zones often grow their plants in containers and keep them indoors or in a greenhouse during cold weather. Cinnamon species generally don’t reach their full size in containers, but they can still yield their fragrant cinnamon bark after a few years.

Start with a large container that’s at least 18 inches across and 20 inches deep to give your cinnamon plant room to grow and mature. The container also should have ample drainage holes. Use a loose, well-draining potting mix, and water whenever the top inch of soil dries out. Bring the plant outdoors during the summer to give its growth a boost in the sunlight. Indoors, a south-facing window is ideal. Mist your plant to boost humidity as needed. And fertilize during the growing season (spring to fall) with a liquid fertilizer, following label instructions.

Overwintering

If you live in a cooler region, you can cultivate this plant in a greenhouse, indoors, or in your large container that can be moved inside during the winter season when temperatures may drop below 32°F. In case you are unable to relocate your plants inside, make sure to cover them when the temperature drops below freezing.

Pests and Diseases

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

Fungal diseases can affect cinnamon plants growing under stress in excessively wet or shady conditions. Many of the insect pests that impact cinnamon plants, such as the cinnamon butterfly and cinnamon gall mite, are not present outside of the tropics.1 Leafminers can also affect cinnamon plants and cause leaf drop, and mealybugs can cause foliage damage. Apply an organic insecticide if the infestation is severe.2

Common Problems with Cinnamon Plants

Cinnamon is fairly simple to grow but there are some problems that can come up over time.

Leaves are Turning Yellow

If you notice the foliage turning yellow and leaves beginning to drop, you may be giving the plant too much water. It can also look like the overall structure of your plant is shriveling. If growing outdoors, you want to water generously and not let the soil dry out completely, but note rainfall patterns and the irrigation the plant may already be getting and make any necessary adjustments.

Brown Specks are on Leaves

Brown speckling on the foliage is a sign of disease, namely leaf spot. This is caused by a fungus and will spread into irregular patches and, eventually, eat away at the leaves. The plant can recover if you remove the affected parts promptly and apply a fungicide. To prevent it from recurring, spray with neem oil frequently.

III. Uses and Benefits 

Its wood is used to create plywood, cabinets, furniture, and other items. Javanicum yields sturdy wood that is used in buildings and homes.

It is employed in the creation of liquors, chocolate, drinks, and spicy candies, among other things. 

One of the most popular spices, true cinnamon, is produced from the bark of the Cinnamomum Verum tree.

Hot drinks can be strengthened by adding politum bark, which also helps to ease headaches. 

Crushed leaves and bark paste are used to cure food poisoning and stomach pain.

Cinnamon has a long history of use in traditional medicine as a digestive aid.

Preliminary studies show that cinnamon could slow symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease through the reduction of the oligomerization of beta-amyloid.

IV. Harvesting and Storage

The trees grow as leafy bushes, usually reaching a maximum of 3 m (10 ft) in height. They are first harvested at 3 years old and continue producing well for 40–50 years. Small side branches (1.5–5 cm; ½” to 2″ in diameter) are removed from the trees. The outer bark is removed and processed into mulch. Twigs, leaves and berries (seeds) are crushed to make cinnamon oil, a less valuable byproduct. The inner bark of the branches is loosened by being rubbed with a brass rod. The bark is then split with a brass or stainless-steel knife and peeled off as intact as possible. Long, full ‘quills’ of cinnamon are more valuable than broken pieces. These quills are then dried over several days in the shade, then in darkness. All this work is done by hand by experienced workers; this is the most expensive part of producing cinnamon spice. Finally, the dried bark is cut into sticks or ground into powder for sale to consumers.

True Cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum) Details

Common name Ceylon cinnamon, Ceylon cinnamon tree, Cinnamon, Cinnamon bark tree, Kayu Manis, True cinnamon
Botanical name Cinnamomum verum
Plant type Edible
Hardiness zone 10a, 10b, 11a, 11b, 12a, 12b
Growth rate Medium
Height 30 ft. 0 in. - 50 ft. 0 in.
Width 30 ft. 0 in. - 50 ft. 0 in.
Sunlight Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
Soil condition Clay
Flower color Cream/Tan
Leaf color Green