An attractive, sweetly scented, flowering plant that adds beauty and fragrance to the garden in winter. Although reasonably hardy, this deciduous, slow-growing, shrub is best suited to a sheltered south or east-facing aspect. Its common name 'wintersweet' is due to the strongly scented flowers that appear on its bare branches from November onwards.
Family: Calycanthaceae (sweetshrubs
Botanical Name: Chimonanthus
Common Names: Japan all-spice, wintersweet
Foliage: Deciduous, simple dark green lance-shaped leaves.
Flowers: Upturned, cup-shaped, multi-petalled flowers, in shades of cream or pale yellow, often with dark red centres. Strong spicy fragrant scent.
Flowering Period: November to February.
Soil: Moist but well-drained soil (chalk, clay, sand or loam). Any pH.
Conditions: Full sun. Best grown in a south or east facing aspect, in a sheltered location.
Habit: Bushy, spreading, branched.
Hardiness: Hardy in most regions of the UK (down to -15°C). Protect from frost until well established.
Best grow in a sheltered sunny position, in a good well-drained, moderately fertile deep loam. However, wintersweet is not too fussy about soil type and will tolerate some light shade. Ideal for planting against a south or west facing wall.
Plant in the autumn or spring. Newly planted shrubs can take several years to mature and produce flowers. Once established, the blooms will be produced in bunches, close to the bare branches, just before the leaves appear.
Wintersweet is one of the few shrubs that provides fragrant flowers in the winter, so plant it near a pathway, doorway, gateway or under a window, to appreciate its heady scent.
Water thoroughly during dry weather until well established. Mulch annually with organic matter in spring and apply a general fertilizer suitable for shrubs.
Young plants can take many years to reach flowering size, so they are best left unpruned until then. Once established, they can be pruned after flowering to shape or restrict growth, as required.
Prune wall grown specimens after flowering by removing any weak and crowded branches.
Generally pest and disease free.
Seed can be sown as soon as ripe, under the protection of a cold frame. However, propagation by seed can give disappointing results and will often take many years before you are rewarded with flowers.
Propagation from cuttings provides much more reliable results. Take softwood cuttings in summer or layer low branches in autumn.
The main species grown in UK gardens is Chimonanthus praecox (syn. C. fragrans). A deciduous shrub that can reach a height of up to 8ft (2.5m).
Chimonanthus praecox 'Luteus' has lemon-yellow flowers.
Chimonanthus praecox 'Grandiflorus' has larger rich-yellow flowers with purple/red centres.