Some of my favorite plants are those that “do something” when little else is.
Do we really need more June-flowering perennials? No!
Well, yes. Never mind.

Edgeworthia chrysantha – “Paperbush” is the common name – is a deciduous suckering shrub , native to China. It usually maxes out around 4′ to 5′ tall and as wide.  The large, matte bluish-green leaves resemble those of Magnolia virginia in shape and are also a bit silvery on the underside.  But that’s not what we’re here for…

An oooh-aaahhh-worthy specimen at the Hahn Horticulture Garden, Blacksburg, VA.

Furry, silvery flower clusters dangle like earrings from the cinnamon stems throughout the winter, getting larger by the month.  

Then by late February or March, they open up, all golden and waxy, emitting a light, sweet fragrance on sun-warmed days.

Blooms at Pine Knot a few Springs ago…

Edgeworthia is ideal for the deciduous woodland environment. Hellebore specialists Dick and Judith Tyler of Pine Knot Farms (Clarksville, Virginia), situate theirs among drifts of spring bulbs and, of course, Hellebores. It’s a soul-stirring sight in March.

I believe the hardiness of Edgeworthia may be underestimated, especially if you go to a little effort to select the right microclimate.  Dr. Dirr lists it as Zone 7 to 8(9). Having enjoyed them at the JC Raulston Arboretum during my doctoral work at NC State (Raleigh, North Carolina; Zone 7b), I found Edgeworthia was little-know here in the Blue Ridge (solid Zone 6, alledgedly 6a).  We ordered some in for our Garden and Hort Club’s 2007 plant sale held in late April – despite my pleading and mark-downs, they didn’t generate much interest from shoppers as they were out of flower. We planted the left-overs in a fairly protected position on the North side of our garden pavilion, and they’re thriving. Snow was heaped up around them throughout January and February and we’ve gotten well into the single digits complete with howling winds a few times.  Despite this rotten winter, they look better than ever, ready to burst into bloom any day now.  Readers, please weigh in: Had any success with it in Zone 6?  And why isn’t this fabulous thing more prevalent in the trade? 

13 thoughts on “Edgeworthia!”

  1. Well, you sold me! The size and bloom time is perfect for smaller urban yards. I know you can find this here in Seattle, but to be honest I haven’t seen many of them around. Hopefully this posting will help! (One concern: I see from the USDA PLANTS database that this species has already naturalized in Georgia. Any concerns about invasiveness on your side of the country?)

  2. Lovely form! I love plants that create interest in the colder months when not much else is blooming. It looks like a much neater version of Chimonanthus preacox.

  3. I’ve lusted after this shrub, but never tried it here in zone 5… I experiment with supposedly tender perennials all the time, but shrubs that might get frozen aren’t in the budget at the moment. But if anyone has had success I’ll be first in line!

  4. Oh, this plant is beautiful. Does it keep pushing growth up from the base? And does it get this well-formed on its own, or is that the result of some good pruning? I’d snap it up if it were hardy in Zone 5.

  5. WOW, what a lovely shrub (and new for me). Thank you for posting about it.

    Another great early spring flowering shrub is what we call Snow Forsythia here (Abeliophyllum distichum, from the Oleaceae family). Should be hardy in zone 5 too, I think.

  6. I came back to have a look at this plant when I got home from work today. Holly, my winter equivalent here in Australia would be zone 10 in the US classification. Summers here can see up to a week of temperatures over 95 degrees F. What are the chances that this plant would grow here? Magnolias grow pretty well here, if that’s any help/indication.

  7. Edgeworthia does wonderfully here in the Bronx (Arbor Day Zone 7, USDA Zone 6). We have four specimens planted on our Ladies’ Border, a display of plants not normally considered hardy in New York. The oldest has been in the ground since 2001. The plants have an attractive open architecture and large green leaves. They do tend to sucker from the crown and need a little pruning to keep tidy.

  8. I tried to leave a comment yesterday to no avail, so will try again today. Todd, your “Ladies Border” sounds right up my alley, heh! Must visit. Jimbo, you are our equivalent of Miami, darn you (thumbing nose in your general direction). Edgeworthia must not need much chilling if Dirr lists it at Z. 9, and it must be heat tolerant, also. Hannes, you’re right – Abeliophyllum is a terrific plant and is indeed in the trade here, though a bit difficult to find. Have seen some very nice specimens (and it’s a nice change from yellow forsythia which is EVERYWHERE). Deb, we’ve never touched those plants pictured – they just “did it”. The buds form in the late summer/fall, so pruning has to happen in the spring. As Todd noted, they do sucker from base (ours are ready for a pruning in that respect). Linda, I’ve never seen fruit form; nor have I heard of any invasive tendencies whatsoever. Thanks, all!

  9. Love this plant, but it died for us in a container in Brooklyn, NY. We may try it again in ground, but I wouldn’t try zone 5.

  10. I live in Hillsborough, NC and have an Edgeworthia. It has been in the ground for ten years and is 6 feet tallo by at least 10 wide. It is planted next to the drive way on the south side. It wilts in the summer, but has recovered in evening. I water when necessary. It is wilting in sections and some of those sections are not recovering. It seems to be getting worse. I have run the hose for two days and kept the run off to an minimum. I don’t want to loose this plant as it is magnificent! Any suggestions on what the prob lem could be? Please help!

  11. We have an edgeworthia in our garden in metro Atlanta, and it is 8’ tall and at least 10’ wide. So it needs a lot of space to mature.

  12. We have an Edgeworthia that was planted 8 years ago in Fairview, NC – 6a/b; and it is thriving; absolutely stunning. It’s on the NE side of the shop, gets 2-4 hours sun and is very, very happy. I just got one last week and will be planting it in my front yard on the west side of my house where it will again get 2-4 hours of sun. We have also taken some cuttings and are attempting to root, so far – I do believe it is going to be very successful.

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