Warm Up Your Winter With Paperbush

January 23, 2014 | By | Comments (1)

Paperbush and daffodils at Gibbs Gardens, Ball Ground, GA. Photo: Steve Bender

It’s 15 degrees on this January morning — so cold that when I look through the window at my bird feeder outside, even the chickadees chickadon’t. Yet I know that in just a few weeks one of Grumpy’s favorite winter shrubs will fill the garden with fragrant, golden orbs of happiness — paperbush.

Paperbush (Edgeworthia chrysantha) gets its name from the high-quality paper made from its bark in its native China. In the South, it languished in obscurity for years, until nurseries discovered it’s incredibly easy to force into early bloom. Winter flower and garden shows then made it a mainstay of their displays. Every gardener who sniffed its perfume and gawked at its blooms wanted one. Because it’s easy to grow and cuttings root in a snap, voila! Gardening had a new star.


Paperbush flower buds. Photo: Steve Bender

Paperbush is unique in that it looks like it’s blooming weeks long it actually does. Plump flower buds covered in silvery, silky hairs gleam in the sun all winter atop the deciduous shrub’s naked branches.


Photo: Steve Bender

The buds slowly expand as the days grow longer, so that by mid-February in Grumpy’s neck of the woods (north-central Alabama) any mild weather starts them popping. Bloom clusters a couple of inches across consist of many, fragrant, tubular blossom that are white outside and golden inside. They might remind you of the blooms of daphne, a relative, but paperbush is much easier to grow than daphne.


Paperbush in summer. Photo: Ralph Anderson

Even in paperbush didn’t bloom, it would make a handsome shrub. Dark blue-green leaves, about 4 inches long and half as wide, cloak the plant from spring to fall. They remind me of rhododendron and anise. And glorioski — deer don’t eat them.

Paperbush Basics
Light: Full sun or light shade
Soil: Moist, fertile, well-drained
Size: 6 to 12 feet tall and wide
Growth rate: Rapid
Pests: None serious
Growing zones: USDA Zones 7-9

Paperbush Choices
Just plain vanilla paperbush is plenty to love for most people, but here are some special selections you might want to consider for your garden.


‘Akebono’ paperbush. Photo: Camellia Forest Nursery

‘Akebono’ (‘Red Dragon’). Orange-red flowers! Grumpy has a small one that’s yet to flower. Said to be less vigorous and more finicky than the others. We’ll see.

‘Gold Rush.’ Bright yellow flowers, moderate growth rate, grows 6 feet tall and wide in 10 years.

‘Hawkridge Selection.’ Yellow flowers, compact form, slower growth, 4 feet tall and wide in 10 years. Good choice for small spaces.

‘Nanjing Gold.’  Large, very fragrant, yellow flowers, 8-inch long leaves, 8 feet tall and wide in 10 years.

‘Snow Cream.’ Yellow flowers, very vigorous, fast growth, 12 feet tall and wide in 10 years.

Where to Buy Paperbush
Look for paperbush at better garden centers and nurseries as soon as they get new plants in. If you can’t find it locally, try these outstanding mail-order nurseries.

1. Camellia Forest Nursery
. Fairweather Gardens
. Forest Farm
. Wayside Gardens


  1. garden98110

    Thanks for the excellent snaps and information article. Edgeworthia chyrsthana grows in our Seattle area. Its flowers are smaller than those of our Southern cousins, but equally valuable. The gardener

    February 4, 2014 at 7:43 pm

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