How to grow wintersweet (chimonanthus)
Find out all you need to know about growing Chimonanthus praecox in this detailed Grow Guide.
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Chimonanthus praecox is also known as wintersweet. It’s the perfect name for a shrub with deliciously scented flowers that appear in January and February. The small, pale yellow, waxy blooms appear on bare stems and might appear insignificant. But they really do punch above their weight in fragrance terms. Wintersweet is a relatively slow-growing shrub, good for a medium-sized garden as it reaches a maximum height of 4m, and spreads to around 2.5m. Florists love wintersweet for cutting and adding to winter floral arrangements.
Take a look at our handy Chimonanthus praecox Grow Guide, below.
For best results grow Chimonanthus praecox in a warm, sheltered position, in full sun. Think about planting companions. You don’t want wintersweet to compete with other scented winter shrubs such as Daphne or Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’. It’s also worth considering that in summer, the foliage of chimonanthus is definitely not its best feature, so it might benefit from being next to a showy climber or shrub. It’s a good shrub to plant near a doorway or by a path, to catch the delicious scent as you pass. It’s also good for training against a warm, south-facing wall.
If planting chimonanthus against a wall, make sure you dig a generous hole, not too close to the brickwork, incorporating plenty of well-rotted compost and micorrhizal fungi. Water regularly until established.
You can propagate Chimonanthus praecox by seed, but the plant will take a long time to mature and come into flower. To ensure reliable flowers from cultivated varieties it’s best to propagate by softwood cuttings or layering in summer.
Chimonanthus: problem solving
Chimonanthus praecox is generally pest and disease free.
Chimonanthus praecox should be mulched annually with well-rotted manure or compost. Keep pruning to a minimum, removing dead, diseased or crossing branches.
Chimonanthus varieties to try
- Chimonanthus praecox 'Luteus' – the flowers are larger than the species and completely yellow, without the purple inner petals. It blooms later in winter than original wintersweet, but its fragrance is not as strong
- Chimonanthus praecox 'Grandiflorus' – larger leaves and deeper yellow flowers than the species, but with the central purple blotch