Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Fragrant Wintersweet Tree
Chimonanthus praecox

Family: Calycanthaceae
Genus: Chimonanthus (ky-moh-NAN-thus) (Info)
Species: praecox (pray-koks) (Info)

Synonym:Chimonanthus fragrans
Synonym:Calycanthus praecox
Synonym:Meratia praecox

6 vendors have this plant for sale.

33 members have or want this plant for trade.


6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)
8-10 ft. (2.4-3 m)
10-12 ft. (3-3.6 m)
12-15 ft. (3.6-4.7 m)

6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)

USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

Sun Exposure:
Sun to Partial Shade

Seed is poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:
Pale Yellow

Bloom Time:
Late Winter/Early Spring
Mid Winter


Other details:
Flowers are fragrant

Soil pH requirements:
5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.9 to 8.5 (alkaline)
over 9.1 (very alkaline)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From seed; winter sow in vented containers, coldframe or unheated greenhouse

Seed Collecting:
Allow pods to dry on plant; break open to collect seeds

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By mattadeus
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By Gitagal
Thumbnail #3 of Chimonanthus praecox by Gitagal

By fangNJ
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By mattadeus
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There are a total of 21 photos.
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6 positives
1 neutral
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive coriaceous On Dec 25, 2014, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

A big, coarse, gawky shrub/small tree valued for its extraordinarily fragrant flowers in midwinter. I'm indifferent to most floral fragrances that make many swoon, but I like this sweet fragrance---strong but not heavy or cloying, a little like perfumed soap.

An excellent plant for forcing for midwinter cut flower arrangements.

The pale straw-yellow flowers are fleshy and have a peculiar translucent waxy quality, seen to best advantage when backlit by the low winter sun. They are small and not very showy, but a twig brought inside in January will perfume a room.

The habit can be vase-shaped, but the plants I've seen have been more irregular in outline. If it gets ragged and leggy with age, it can be renewed by cutting stems in rotation to within a foot of the ground in late winter. Growth is slow.

There's an old shrub (renewal pruned a few years ago and coming back nicely) in Boston's Arnold Arboretum (Z6a). I tried planting one in Cambridge and it didn't survive its first winter. I don't know if or how often a Z6a winter may blast the flower buds.

Positive arthurb3 On Mar 1, 2014, arthurb3 from Raleigh, NC (Zone 7b) wrote:

Forest Farm is a good US mail order source.

Its a very slow growing plant.

Positive sallyg On Apr 10, 2009, sallyg from Anne Arundel,, MD (Zone 7b) wrote:

I planted 12 seeds from Gitagal's bush recently. Even though the seeds were a year old, I had ten sprout. I just used moist soil and put them on my plant shelf. It can't get much easier!
Update, January 2014 I will be enjoying a dozen or so flowers on one of the plants grown in 2009. Many more in years to come.

Positive keyecsc On Jan 16, 2006, keyecsc from Flushing, NY wrote:

I plant 3 Wintersweet over 9 years in Flushing New York, and I enjoy the harvest of seeds and also the cut flower, the fragrant and beauty of blooming is what I expect every winter.

Neutral Gitagal On Aug 28, 2005, Gitagal from Baltimore, MD (Zone 7a) wrote:

I was given this plant about 5 years ago, grown from seed, and only about 12"-14" tall, by a man who loved growing things that were fairly uncommon. We traded--I gave him a rooted "Tamarack" tree (about 10" tall) which also has NO business growing here in MD!

Now (2005), my Wintersweet is about 8' tall and about 5' wide. Last winter (2004) it flowered for the first time. Sparsly--but it flowered. I expect next February to see a better show!

The shrub is vase-shaped with new growth coming from the base and from existing branches in an upward fashion. . The leaves are similar to those of a Forsythia, but a bit larger and very rough/abrasive to the touch--like fine sandpaper. I have observed that the roots are quite superficial and matted, making it hard to dig in the soil around this bush. If it did not have a sentimental value to me, I would not choose to have it in a flower bed. Maybe out in an area of it's own--but not in a bed. I am in Z-7a. The Cicadas had a feast on this plant last Summer. It lost quite a few branch-tips. Didn't seem to bother it.

Just today, 8/28/05, I found several seed pods on this bush. They contained one seed each, about the size of a sunflower seed, but more rounded. There is no coating on the seeds. They are a nice cinnamon color. I will try to grow them.

Positive narrowfocus On Jun 2, 2005, narrowfocus from Birmingham
United Kingdom (Zone 8a) wrote:

I'm buying one of these as soon as I find a spot in my garden. They smell amazing! Sweet but not cloying, and very strong. I'd recommend growing one near a back or front door where you'll pass in winter. The flowers look rather like jellyfish, and they are fleshy, with thick petals and a firm texture; they are about the size of a thumbnail. In the summer, it's apparently pretty boring (will upload a pic when I get a plant), but who cares? The winter fragrance is worth it.

Positive soilsandup On May 23, 2005, soilsandup from Sacramento, CA (Zone 9a) wrote:

In my continued search for plants that bloom in the winter time, I was able to find a very small seedling of Chimonanthus praecox at a plant sale last year. It started out about 6-8 inches tall and is still 6-8 inches tall. I recently had the opportunity to buy a 1-gallon size of this plant and I hope that this one will do better and will grow, thrive, and bloom soon. I am not sure how old the plant has to be before it starts to bloom. I have read good things about this plant and the blooms are supposed to be very fragrant so I am rating this a positive.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Anniston, Alabama
Sacramento, California
Cumming, Georgia
Snellville, Georgia
Nottingham, Maryland
Roslindale, Massachusetts
Raleigh, North Carolina
Sanford, North Carolina
Winston Salem, North Carolina
Portland, Oregon
Lexington, Virginia
Seattle, Washington

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