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Chimonanthus praecox (photo courtesy of Mark Turner)
Chimonanthus praecox (photo courtesy of Mark Turner)

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Zone
Zones 4-9, 14-21, 28-34
Full Sun
Full
Regular Water
Moderate

Chimonanthus praecox

Wintersweet
Calycanthaceae
Deciduous, Shrubs

Wintersweet’s spicy-scented blossoms appear on leafless branches in winter or spring and may last for more than a month if not hit by hard frost. Native to China and Japan. Its open growth habit reaches 10–15 ft. tall and 6–8 ft. wide, with many stems from the base. Inch-wide, translucent pale yellow blossoms have darker centers marked with purple, chocolate, or maroon. Tapered, rough green leaves turn yellow-green in autumn.

In colder parts of the range, plant in a sheltered site to prevent frost damage, but always put the plant where its winter fragrance can be enjoyed. Restrict size by pruning while in flower; shape as a small tree by removing excess basal stems. To rejuvenate a leggy plant, lop it to within a foot of the ground in late winter. Needs good drainage and some winter cold.

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