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Chimonanthus praecox - (L.)Link.

Common Name Winter Sweet
Family Calycanthaceae
USDA hardiness 7-9
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Cliffs in glens and gorges of Ichang province, 30 - 3000 metres[109]. Mountain forests at elevations of 500 - 1,100 metres[266]. Also found in Sichuan, Hubei and Chekiang.
Range E. Asia - China.
Edibility Rating    (2 of 5)
Other Uses    (2 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (1 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Full sun
Chimonanthus praecox Winter Sweet

Chimonanthus praecox Winter Sweet


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Bloom Color: Yellow. Main Bloom Time: Early spring, Late spring, Late winter, Mid spring, Mid winter. Form: Rounded.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of shrub
Chimonanthus praecox is a deciduous Shrub growing to 3 m (9ft) by 3 m (9ft) at a medium rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 7. It is in flower from November to March, and the seeds ripen from May to June. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Insects.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


C. fragrans. Lindl. Calycanthus praecox. Meratia praecox.

Plant Habitats

Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Flowers
Edible Uses:

Flowers - thoroughly boiled and then washed[179]. Eaten with oil and salt[177, 183]. The flower petals are used to flavour and scent tea[183].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

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Antiphlogistic  Antirheumatic  Sialagogue

The flowers and flower buds contain 0.5 - 0.6%.essential oils comprising benzylalcohol, benzyl acetate, linalool, terpineol and indole[266]. They are sialagogue[178, 218]. The flowers are used in the treatment of thirst and depression whilst the essential oil is used to treat colds[266]. The leaves and roots can be used in the treatment of contusions, cuts, haemorrhages, strains, lumbago, rheumatism, numbness and colds[266].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

The Bookshop: Edible Plant Books

Our Latest books on Perennial Plants For Food Forests and Permaculture Gardens in paperback or digital formats.

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Other Uses

Essential  Wood

The flowers are very fragrant, they are used in pot-pourri and to make perfumes[1, 46, 61]. The wood, after soaking in water, polishes to a brilliant black finish[178].

Special Uses

Espalier  Scented Plants

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Landscape Uses: Border, Espalier, Foundation, Massing. Requires a good soil in a sunny sheltered position[164, 200]. Badly drained or compacted soils may cause blotching or yellowing of the leaves[200]. Succeeds in most soils but it seems most at home on chalky ones[219]. A very ornamental plant[1], it is hardy to about -25°c[184]. It is best grown on a sunny wall, however, in order to protect the flowers and induce heavier flowering[11]. The flowers are very fragrant[182], but the plant can be very sparse flowering after cool summers[184]. Plants have a moderate rate of growth[202]. Plants take 5 - 12 years to flower from seed[182, 200]. The var. 'Grandiflorus' comes true from seed and has larger flowers than the type[78]. Plants flower profusely when established and left unpruned[219], if any pruning is necessary then it is best done immediately after flowering[184, 219]. The flowers are produced on the leaf axils of wood 3 - 4 years old[202]. The flowers emit a powerful sweet fragrance which can be smelt 50 yards away. The smell is like jonquil and violets[245]. When the fragrance is inhaled close to for any length of time the smell seems to disappear[245]. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus[200]. Special Features: Not North American native, Fragrant flowers, Attractive flowers or blooms.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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The PFAF Bookshop

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Plant Propagation

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame[78, 200]. Pre-soak stored seed in tepid water for two hours, keep warm and moist for 3 days then chill for 5 - 8 weeks and sow in a cold frame[164]. Germination is usually good, though it is often slow and erratic, and takes place in 2 months or more at 13°c[78, 164]. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in a greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in a frame. Extremely difficult to root[11]. Layering in spring[200] or in July/August[78]. Takes 9 months[78]. Fair to good percentage[78].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Native Plant Search

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Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Readers comment

Gillian Russell   Sat Jul 8 2006

I purchased a Chimonanthus Praecox from a specialist nursery four years ago. I followed the directions given by the nursery, to date there have been small yellow waxy flowers, but no scent. Could you please advise me how long I will have to wait for the beautiful scent to appear? The plant is healthy and is growing well.

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