Horticultural Highlight: Wintersweet
In this series, the staff of Duke Gardens highlights plants you’ll find within our 55-acre living collection.Horticulture director Bobby Mottern features one of his favorite winter shrubs in this week's edition.
Botanical name: Chimonanthus praecox
Common name: Wintersweet
Family name: Calycanthaceae (Strawberry-shrub Family)
Plant type: Shrub
Native range: China
Locations within Duke Gardens: In the Culberson Asiatic Arboretum, near the Kathleen Smith Moss Garden
USDA Hardiness Zones: 7-9
Most people think winter is a time of dull gray cold days and no reason to enjoy the garden. Well, they are mostly right about the weather, but there is much to appreciate in the garden this time of year. There are a handful of winter blooming plants, and wintersweet is one of my favorites. The small creamy yellow flowers with a purple center are about half an inch wide. They open in January and bloom through early March. The cultivar ‘Concolor’ has clear yellow flowers. On mild winter days the fragrance is breathtakingly sweet and can be enjoyed from a good distance away.
Wintersweet is a semi-evergreen shrub that grows large, up to 12 feet tall and wide, so it needs some room. Its growth habit is upright and multi-caned, and other than the fragrance, it’s a standard shrub that is easy to grow and has no pest issues. All it needs are well drained soil and full to partial shade. Try to locate it close to a frequently used space in your landscape, near a path, patio or kitchen door, for instance, so you will have ample opportunity to enjoy its sweet aroma.
Photos by Jason Holmes (top) and Paul Jones.