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Plants from the Ground Up

Edgeworthia chrysantha PAPERBUSH


Edgeworthia is one of my most-loved plants, so I am very happy to see it gaining some popularity. I have often wondered why such a beautiful and deliciously fragrant shrub is so uncommonly planted in Western gardens.

Edgeworthia chrysantha is an incredibly showy deciduous shrub native to Japan, Nepal and SW China. Intensely fragrant and highly unusual yellow flower clusters bloom on bare stems from February to April, the silky buds appear even earlier and I love to admire them while I anticipate the wonderful flowers soon to come. Paperbush would be an outstanding addition to the garden if it bloomed in summer, but the timing of these winter blooms elevate it to nothing short of magic. The leaves are soft and somewhat leathery and are arranged alternately on attractive cinnamon colored bark. The distinctive scars that are left, when the leaves fall, only add to the beauty of this shrub. The spreading branch pattern is very elegant on this somewhat mounding 3-6′ tall by 5′ wide shrub, giving it much-desired winter interest. In its native state it is found along streamsides and forest edges. Although not fussy about soil type, it does resent root disturbance and does well being transplanted when young. A protected site is required in the colder end of its zone or the flowers tend to be frosted off. Hardy to USDA zones 7-10.

The flowers on Edgeworthia are hermaphroditic (meaning they have both male and female flowers) and are pollinated by insects. Late-winter flowers are a favorite of bees and this makes a perfect winter forage plant; on sunny days in winter I find bees on all of the Edgeworthia and Erica in my garden.

The genus Edgeworthia was named for the Victorian era botanist Michael Edgeworth and its species name chrysantha comes from the Greek words chrusos, meaning gold and anthos, meaning flower. Edgeworthia chrysantha and Nanjing Gold flowers are both vibrant yellow, fading to cream with age; paperbush also comes in a striking coral form known as Red Dragon or Akebano.

Edgeworthia chrysantha Akebono/Red Dragon

As the common name suggests, Edgeworthia has been used in Asia for papermaking for many centuries. The bark fibers of this plant are used to make a Japanese tissue paper known as “mitsumata paper”. Edgeworthia produces a paper that is so durable it has been used for banknotes.

To make paper; second year stems are harvested and their leaves removed. The stems are then steamed until the bark can be stripped away from the stem and the bark is then boiled with soda ash for two hours. The softened bark fibers are then beaten with mallets or blended until smooth. The resulting paper is a creamy off-white color.

If you would like to attempt growing your own, it can be done by planting ripe seed in a cold frame in winter or by softwood cuttings in spring.


  1. I really enjoyed your talk at Nerd Night. Do these plants need much fertilizer? Thanks.

    • Thank you so much for your comment! How much and when to fertilize can be difficult to gauge since soil conditions vary so much. I do not recommend giving woody plants too much fertilizer especially in the first season. Woody plants should have a slow and steady growth and a high nitrogen dose can lead to quick yet weak growth. If your plant looks chlorotic (yellowed) or isn’t putting on a few inches of new growth each season fertilize with a balanced slow release fertilizer. Another thing to keep in mind it that you will not want to fertilize late in the summer, say after July, this will lead to tender new growth that hasn’t had time to harden off before freezing temperatures hit. Let me know if I can be of any more help.


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