Chimonanthus praecox
Common Name: wintersweet
Type: Deciduous shrub
Family: Calycanthaceae
Native Range: China
Zone: 7 to 9
Height: 10.00 to 15.00 feet
Spread: 8.00 to 12.00 feet
Bloom Time: February to March
Bloom Description: Yellowish with purplish-brown centers
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Hedge
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Leaf: Good Fall
Other: Winter Interest

Culture

Winter hardy to USDA Zones 7-9 (possibly in Zone 6) where it is easily grown in moist, fertile, well-drained soils in full sun. Needs a protected location in Zones 6 and 7 in order to minimize possible frost damage to flowers and to insure survival. Plants may be grown from seed, but usually will not bloom for the first 5-10 years.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Chimonanthus praecox, commonly known as wintersweet or Japanese allspice, is a deciduous shrub that typically grows 10-15’ tall and to 8-12’ wide. It is native to forested areas of China. Fragrant flowers (to 1” across) bloom in winter (December to January) usually on leafless branches, but sometimes, particularly in warm climates, on branches clad with a few persisting leaves. Bloom time is later (February-March) near the northern edge of the growing area. Each flower has numerous showy tepals which are sulfur yellow to pale yellow with a purplish-brown center. Flowers (to 1 1/2” across) bloom on branches from the prior year. Rough, glossy green, opposite, elliptic-ovate to ovate-lanceolate leaves (to 6” long) emerge in spring after the flowers have bloomed. Leaves turn yellow in fall.

Genus name comes from the Greek words cheimon meaning winter and anthos meaning flower. These shrubs flower in winter.

Specific epithet means very early in reference to bloom time.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems.

Garden Uses

This shrub is often cultivated for its sweetly fragrant winter flowers. Where winter protection is not needed, it makes an excellent winter flowering specimen shrub for open gardens, shrub borders or sites near walks or doorways where flowers can be easily enjoyed in winter.