Edgeworthia Chrysantha

Looking more zoological than botanical, especially when still in tightly held furry, fuzzy bud, Edgeworthia chrysantha is an oddity to many who visit the Fairegarden.

Edgeworthia chysantha is sometimes called paperbush, referring to the leaves which have been used in fine papermaking. In Japan, at one time, it was used to make banknotes. (Note: the paper making name may refer to a disputedly seperate species, E. papyrifera.) It is the same family, Thymelaeaceae, as Daphne, and is also known as golden daphne for the sweet smell and time of bloom. Here in the Fairegarden, both Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ and Edworthia chrysantha bloom simultaneously, a duet to fill the West side of the property with an appetizing blend of the sweetest perfumes.

Edgeworthia chrysantha was first planted in this garden as a replacement for a forest pansy redbud that was severed in half by a falling loblolly pine branch. Click here to read this very early in our blogging career story.

This was a small tree/shrub that had been previously unknown to us until it was spotted in a mail order catalog with an accompanying description of a fragrance that could not be ignored, blooming n the dead of winter. The stated growing Zones 7-10 put us right on the Northern edge of hardiness, but the size and conditions required could be met here, sort of, so Edgeworthia chrysantha was ordered on an impulse, as is our modus operandi.

The new tree was duly planted upon its arrival at the lower end of the bed where the colony of tall pine trees reside, down by the street where there is the most moisture that this steeply sloping piece of earth has to offer. When springtime returned to spur life back into the garden, there were no leaves emerging on the little stick of purported to be Edgeworthia, nothing at all, well into the warmer season. The company was contacted for a replacement. A second bare stick was sent which was also duly planted upon arrival, this time at the upper end of the pine tree bed, rather than at the lower end where the damaged forest pansy redbud and the first leafless stick were left in place to share their woes and sorrows.

Times marches on. By summer, leaves had emerged on both the new Edgeworthia chrysantha and the formerly presumed dead one. Now there were two sticks with some leaves, not close together as would be the best planting practice, but leagues apart, along with a recovering forest pansy redbud. The year was 2008.

Skipping merrily to the fall of 2009, fur covered flower buds were observed and noted on both of the Edgeworthia chrysantha sticks. There were incredible and otherworldly looking blooms in late winter during the early months of 2010.

Truly a head snapping perfume that causes folks to “follow their noses…to the knock you sideways scent” is emitted by these yellow downward facing tubular bells. Bees are flummoxed by the somewhat hidden entrance to the realm of goodness within. I have watched them buzz around the tops of the whitish tubes, looking for the secret, magic doorway to Heaven. Some will fly off to the early spring bulbs, hellebores and other flowering shrubs with bee offerings at this time of year, but those persistant searchers will be well rewarded when they fly below the silvery umbrellas of bliss.

Plant facts:

Part shade
Good moisture
Rich soil
Blooms January, February and March in Southeast Tennessee Zone 7a
Originates from the Szechaun province of China
Deciduous with yellow fall color
5-6 feet tall by the same width
Suckering will allow for a fuller look over time, needs no pruning
Dislikes root disturbance
Plant close to paths or walkways to best enjoy the scent
Deer resistant, (thanks, Graceful Gardener!)

The genus name is in honor of Michael Edgeworth (1812-1881) a plant collector for the East India Company.

To photograph the blooms, one must get underneath and look upwards, basking in the spicy, honeyed scent on a sunny winter’s day. Ahhhhhh.

Added: The Forest Pansy redbud is still hanging in there. The large and secondary wounds have healed nicely. I did clean around the torn bark edges with a sharp knife at the time to help it recover. It is living and blooms yearly, though it is only half of what it could have been.


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21 Responses to Edgeworthia Chrysantha

  1. Plant envy once again, Frances. 🙂 I saw a mature Edgeworthia at Piccadilly Farm near Athens GA this past weekend at Hellebore Days. It was every bit of 6′ x 6′ and “oddity” is a good description. Since my little growing space would never accommodate such a show stopper, I will admire your beautiful photos and dream on.

    Hi Georgia, thanks. How lucky you are to have seen an Edgeworthia in all of its mature beauty! I would love to see one, to compare with how it is *supposed* to look. Odd, yes, but man that fragrance is something sweeter than pie!

  2. Layanee says:

    The flowers are beautiful both in bud and bloom. I will enjoy it via the blog since it would surely perish in my Zone 6 garden.

    Hi Layanee, thanks. The buds are indeed wonderful and last from fall through winter when little else is so full of promise. As for your zone, maybe someday…

  3. This is such a lovely species. I put one in my garden last year and am enjoying it immensely. The fragrance is amazing! My only complaint is that it is difficult to photograph. Even getting on my hands and knees, sometimes lying on the ground it is hard to get a great shot of its unusual blooms.

    Hi Karin, thanks. I am so happy to hear of your own Edgeworthia. Getting a decent image is a challenge, but then you get to smell the sweetness from an even closer vantage point. I have found it is more fragrant on sunny days, which are also the best photo ops.

  4. Looks almost pre-historic before it opens. Lovely. Never heard of it in my zone 5b garden, but love the pictures.

    Hi Heather, thanks. It is really unusual looking in bud and bloom. Even the stems are odd, but the scent and time of bloom erase any negatives.

  5. Absolutely love this bush. Have three in my garden. Does well in my Zone 7b garden in part shade.
    Mine are in bloom now and they add a unique charm to my garden. Has a wonderful fragrance and deer resistant too!

    Hi Brenda, thanks. How wonderful to have three of these cute little guys in your garden. Good to know about the deer, too.

  6. michaele says:

    Every aspect of Edgeworthia Chrysthana is unusual looking and you were brave to give it a try! Has to be such a treat to have its heavenly fragrance to enjoy this early in the season before the air is filled with competing aromas.

    Hi Micheale, thanks. If impulsive means brave, I am that personified! HA It is a treat, even though my trees are still small. With all of this rain, they should grow some more this year, too.

  7. Sandy Bridenbaugh says:

    Beautiful and so unusual. I have never seen anything like it, and I am waiting for the first lilacs to begin. I love seeing all the beautiful plants that I cannot have in my zone 5 .

    Hi Sandy, thanks. I had never heard of it, nor seen it before placing the order. Now I see them at some nurseries and magazine articles. I do love lilacs, was just thinking about them yesterday. That is my favorite scent in the garden, lots of happy childhood memories associated with it.

  8. Julie says:

    I’m calling my friend who has a nursery down the road to see if he has this gorgeous plant! Why haven’t I added it to our garden yet? Every time I see it or read about it, I always think how much we need it. AND–I still have a gift certificate burning a hole in my pocket! (Well, desk drawer, actually.) Thank you for the lovely photos to remind me that I need a Friday treat! 😉 I just adore your blog–the writing is so lovely and calming, and the images are amazing. You’ve brightened a dreary March Friday!

    Wow, Julie, thanks! This is the kind of comment that makes my day! I hope you can find the Edgeworthia locally. I have seen them offered at BB Barnes in Asheville, one of the fling destinations, too.

  9. sandy lawrence says:

    Oh, Frances, I’m so glad the Forest Pansy redbud is surviving. It deserves to after all the poor thing has been through, and I do love those burgundy leaves. Once again, I am able to admire plants I’d love to grow in my own garden on your blog, the Edgeworthia and the afrementioned Forest Pansy redbud. While the hardiness zone works for both here in the TX Hill Country, the extreme alkaline soil does not. Still, I can enjoy yours in photos and for an olfactory treat, the real life grape Kool Aid fragrance of my own Texas Mountain Laurel now covered in glorious purple racemes of blooms. Thanks for sharing Faire Garden with us!

    Hi Sandy, thanks. As so often happens, once given up for dead as a doornail, the forest pansy hung in there and the wounds have good looking growth closing in around them. I did spray the wounds with household bug spray as a preventative, just one time. How wonderful to hear and imagine the scent of your laurel. Since we once lived north of the Houston area, I am familiar with it.

  10. I love the extended bloom time for this heavenly scented plant. Am happy to have two in my garden as well. Have a couple new stems coming up from the base and keep thinking about propagation.

    Hi Janet, thanks for adding in here. I have those suckers too, but will be allowing them to help the trees become fuller. For now. Let me know how any propagation attempts fare!

  11. Gail says:

    I love this plant…the bud is beautiful, the flower is lovely and it smells delightful. I wanted to reach up and touch the downy bud (fourth photo). What a stellar addition a a garden. xoxogail

    Hi Gail, thanks. The buds are certainly like little pets one would want to caress. You will get your chance soon!

  12. O.K. I have finally got brave enough to start a blog. I think I will enjoy sharing my garden with everyone. Took me awhile to figure it out but am on my way. See what you think. http://lavendersscent.blogspot.com/

    Hi Sandy, how wonderful that you joined this friendly garden blogging community! Welcome to the fold, and don’t hesitate to ask for help from any of the established bloggers. They are a generous group, as all gardeners are, always willing to share a plant, or techie advice. I know a little, very little about that, but will try to answer any questions you might have. I do believe that figuring out stuff on your own helps you learn better. That is the way I did it. I will add you to the blogroll.

    Thanks Frances this is all new to me and taking time to get it on my own, but think I will enjoy. Love seeing everyone’s blogs and learning from them. Thanks for adding me to your blogroll.

    My pleasure, Sandy. One thing you might want to do is always add your blog url when you leave a comment on someone’s blog. Don’t forget to use all the symbols and the http to make it a complete link. It will show up as a link with your comment so folks can find you better. I will add it to this comment in the url space. It might show up automatically after the first time you use it on blogger blogs. Also, I accidentally left out the s on lavender when searching for your url, and up popped a very nasty blog, so please be careful!

  13. Nell Jean says:

    Always a pleasure to see what unusual specimens are coming into bloom in your garden.

    I was hoping to see you weigh in on Blotanical’s latest news.

    Hi Nell Jean, thanks. I have had my nose in the garden lately, and family business and know nothing about Blotanical’s latest. Will check it out when time allows. Thanks for the head’s up!

  14. mmmm! We have a tiny little stick blooming in the greenhouse. I’m still trying to figure out where to plant it that it might be protected enough – besides my garden. (I have just the spot…)

    Hi Kris, thanks for stopping by. I feel sure you will find just the spot, wherever that spot might be, for the little stick of Edgeworthia. It is a tree/shrub worth fussing over.

  15. Cindy, MCOK says:

    Those buds are so cool and the blooms are lovely … now if only we could get a whiff of the fragrance!

    Hi Cindy, thanks. We do need a scratch and sniff app for blogs, don’t we?

  16. Linda says:

    As I’ve fallen in LOVE with this most surreal plant …..your writing has, again, given me a quiver…….the “Umbrellas of Bliss” (not to mention MANY other “Francesisms”) made me smile. You GO girl!

    BTW……thank you for that!

    Hi Linda, thanks so much! Wow, what a sweet thing to wake up to first thing in the morning. Francesism, good one! The Edgeworthia is surreal, like something Dr. Suess would appreciate.

  17. Leelee, Atlanta gardener says:

    If I could only own one shrub, the edgeworthia would be it. I’m up to five and I’m rooting more from shoots that I put bricks on and then cut. Personally, I find the single stem vase shape for this plant the most attractive form and I cut suckers unless I wish to root them. Picadilly Farm, an excellent source, has some that are single stem and some that are multistemmed on the grounds, but I always gravitate to the single stem. They are fairly quick growers, so folks should not be intimidated by the twig they start with. In three years, it will be 4 feet high and similar in width, at five years, six feet each way. I’m actually concerned about how big it might eventually get, but it responds well to pruning. I do know that everyone who sees them, particularly in the dead of winter, stops and asks about them. The good news is that I am beginning to see them at more places for less money (my first was a Edgeworthia papyfira at $35 from the Southeastern Flower Show, which had smaller leaves and was not as hardy). The chrysantha form is hardy in zone 5 as evidenced by the beautiful specimen at Scott Arboretum and those owned by my Philadelphia relatives.

    Hi Leelee, thanks for joining in the conversation here, and welcome. Good to know about the propagation. My two trees are still quite small after four years, but our summers have been extremely dry and there is no irrigation here. I am thinking the more bushy look will be better under the pine trees, but might in the future try to grow some extras. I appreciate your advice!

  18. Gregory says:


    I live in Budapest, Hungary, USDA Zone 7b

    I bought a big Edgeworthia, and these days (early August) the oldest leaves on each branch getting tiny black points on the surface, and then its becoming yellow and fall.
    The youngest and new leaves are unharmed and healthy.
    I planted it in a bigger container around in May and it tolerated the planting good.
    Created a new sucker, but no flower buds yet.
    Ant now i see your plant having the same leaf problem like mine.
    Or its just dropping the old leaves naturally?

    Its so rare here, so I dont have much info about this beautiful plant.
    If you have experience with it please share it with me :]

    Thank you

    Hi Gregory, thanks for visiting. I am so glad you have an Edgeworthia. They are even relatively rare in the US. As for the discolored leaves, I ignore them, since it is a deciduous tree. As long as the new leaves are healthy, I don’t worry much about it. I do know that it needs good drainage, but also plenty of moisture. So I would suggest you water when it is dry, but not too much. Good luck with it!

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  20. Keith Savage says:

    Just bought an Edgeworthia at the Lockerly Arboretum (www.lockerly.org) plant sale for the astoundingly low price of $4! It looks like a miniature “sway-back” palm tree at the moment, but I’m sure it will “spruce” up! I am in zone 8a, so I will plant it (like I do most things down here) in afternoon shade.The only problem is I don’t have clayey soil- I have brick! Solid, red clay that becomes literal brick in the heat of Georgia’s summer. I will certainly amend the area with plenty of manure and potting soil, but I worry about drainage. Can you give me any tips for long-term maintenance of this beautiful shrub? Thanks in advance, Keith

    It sounds like you already know what to do, Keith. Amend the soil with compost and give it extra water the first year or two. As for long term, I have only had my two Edgeworthias less than ten years and have moved one of them this year to a sunnier spot but with better soil. Gardening is always an experiment!

  21. Angel says:

    My Edgeworthia chrysantha was planted by a landscaper who said he thought it was an interesting plant for my yard even though at the time he did not know the name of it. I am very new to outdoor gardening but have learned so much over the last 4 months which is when my yard was transformed from utter emptiness to several gardens with a variety of plants and shrubs. The landscaper only provided me with very general maintenance instructions and when some of my new plants began faultering I began researching and learning; of course I wish now I had known much more in advance of making such an investment but I have snice made a commitment to do my due diligence in the best interest of my gardens going forward. Fortunately my Edgeworthia Chrysanthaon is doing well and I purchased a second plant two weeks ago. It is still in the container and I am wondering – should I leave it in the container or try and get it in the ground before winter? Here in South Carolina the evenings are getting colder and I am runnig out of Fall and moving quikly into Winter. I’ve read conflicting recomendations as to the best time to plant this shrub; Fall or Spring due to its unusual blolom time. Your expertise would be so appreciated! Angel

    Hi Angel, thanks for sharing here. Lucky you to have such a wonderful shrub/tree as the Edgeworthia. I am no expert, especially for your area, but might suggest you keep the new plant in the pot until late winter just to be on the safe side.

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