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Plant Profile: Wintersweet

Wintersweet - Chimonantus praecox Botanical Name: Chimonantus praecox

Family: Calycanthaceae

Type: Deciduous shrub / small tree

Size: 4m in height, 3m in spread

During the bleak months of winter wintersweet offers just what its name suggests: sweet, delicate colour amongst a barren winter garden.

The small, waxy blooms only appear on mature plants but are well worth the wait. The light yellow flowers, with maroon coloured inner petals, have a strong, sweet fragrance. Its petals have a slight translucence and glow under the winter sun.   

In summer wintersweet puts on a display of large, bright green, if fairly average looking, leaves.

Wintersweet originates from China and is distantly related to the magnolia family.

Ideal conditions:

Wintersweet does best in full to partial sun in well-drained soil. Like many winter-flowering shrubs it needs the heat of summer to bloom well in the winter.

In particularly cold climates it should be positioned against a wall or fence to protect the flowers.


Generally it is a fairly low-maintenance plant, although it does require frequent watering, year round.

Prune just after flowering — it can be pruned into shape as a shrub or a small tree.

Reproduced with permission from NZOOM Home and Garden content,
from the previous website of  TVNZ News

The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the RNZIH

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Last updated: June 2, 2004