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Wintersweet flowers are an unexpected delight. The Chimonanthus spends most of the year unnoticed and minding its own business, but when January rolls around, it lets loose a barrage of flowers that are delicate in appearance but which arguably carry the best scent of any flower, anywhere. You have not lived, until you have cozied up to Wintersweet and taken a big whiff.
Genus: Chimonanthus (kai-moan-ANTH-us) In Greek: cheimon= winter, anthos=flower
Origin: Native to China – Wintersweet has been cultivated in China for over 1,000 years. It is valued for use in medicine, and its essential oils are used in cosmetics, perfumery and to flavor teas. In China, Wintersweet flowers have been used to scent linens in the same way that Lavender flowers have been used elsewhere.
Characteristics: 6 species of Chimonanthus exist, but only one is commonly available in nurseries, Chimonanthus praecox. Spectacular nodding, waxy butter yellow flowers accented with maroon on the inside are very fragrant in January-February. There is truly nothing like it. Leaves are lance-shaped, green & deciduous with mild gold fall color before dropping. Sadly, the plant is rather non-descript in all other seasons, but works fine as a background plant.
Size: Large, upright fountain shape shrub, grows 10-15’ x 10-15’
Culture: Sun or part shade, adapts to acidic or alkaline soils but prefers better soil drainage than most Portland soils provide. Amend planting bed with compost to improve drainage. Prune oldest branches to the ground after bloom. To rejuvenate old plants, prune to 12” after bloom. Hardy Z7, protect in temps under 10f
Problems: The lack of multi-season interest is the worst of it.
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5050 SE Stark, Portland, OR
9000 SE Division, Portland, OR
Flowers are always welcome, but when gray winter skies dominate, we appreciate flowers even more. Read more about winter flowering plants here!