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Edgeworthia, Rice Paper Plant: Fragrant Blooms for the Winter Garden

Edgeworthia chrysantha buds beginning to open
If you've been searching for something new, exciting, or unusual for your Winter garden, consider Edgeworthia. First of all, what could be more exciting than a plant that blooms in winter? No matter how cold it is outside, Edgeworthia will bloom in the middle of Winter. Plant it near a window so you can view the beautiful blooms from the comfort of your home. 

Edgeworthia's Winter blooms are not only beautiful, but are also fragrant. Scent is often described as being similar to that of the paperwhite narcissus. However, I find the fragrance to be more similar to cloves. On second thought, plant Edgeworthia near the entrance of your home, so you can enjoy the fragrance of the flowers when you come and go. Or perhaps you could do as I did and get more than one.

Edgeworthia grows wild in China and is related to Daphne odora, and has even been called Yellow Daphne. Also known as Rice Paper Plant, Chinese Paper Plant, and Japanese Paper Plant, Edgeworthia is used to make rice paper. 

There are several species of Edgeworthia, but the most desirable is Edgeworthia chrysantha, since it is more winter-hardy and easier to grow. Edgeworthia chrysantha is a deciduous shrub with very fragrant spherical bloom clusters in late January into February. A large specimen of Edgeworthia chrysantha can be seen growing at the Atlanta Botanical Garden.

Large elongated leaves are more than 3 inches wide and can be up to 11 inches long. The leaves which resemble plumeria, lend a tropical look to the garden in summer. Thus, edgeworthia contributes beauty and interest even when not in bloom. 

Silver buds form in late summer and early fall, growing larger and larger through the Fall, encouraging my anticipation and excitement. When the leaves are gone, the plant appears to be already in bloom. Then in early Winter, the buds begin to swell and resemble upside down sunflowers about 2 inches across. In mid- to late-Winter, the flower clusters begin opening from the outside in. Deep yellow tubular flowers attract pollinators who happen to be out on warmer days. In Georgia, Edgeworthia blooms in January or February, depending on the conditions for that particular Winter. Blooms last up to 6 weeks.

Edgeworthia chrysantha grows to about 6 feet tall and just as wide.

In China, Edgeworthia grows in full sun, but here in Alabama and Georgia, Edgeworthia chrysantha grows best in partial shade or filtered light. No hot afternoon sun.

Edgeworthia is hardy in USDA Zones 7-10, but Edgeworthia chrysantha tolerates colder temperatures and grows just fine in zone 6. 

Rich well-drained soil and regular water will keep your Edgeworthia plant happy. Be sure to water once or twice weekly during periods of summer heat and drought. Like hydrangeas, Edgeworthia will let you know when it is thirsty - the large leaves will droop and hang limp. With a good soaking of water, your plant will promptly perk up.

Edgeworthia grows rather quickly, and tends to send up new shoots from the base, forming a rounded shrub up to 6 feet tall. In Fall, leaves do turn yellow and fall off, but that just makes the plant ready to show off those extravagant Winter blooms. Attract attention and make your neighbors envious with this unusual and beautiful plant, Edgeworthia chrysantha.