Winter Honeysuckle and Wintersweet

malmason(9, Houston TX)February 23, 2009

Dear all,

As I am dreaming for this fall order, I keep coming back to those 2 plants that are very famous for the winter fragrance. Can you please tell me your experience of those plants? I am especially intersted in the fragrance - of course - and bush size, growth habit, bloom period, etc.

Thank you in advance.

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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

The honeysuckle is smaller-growing, less fussy about planting site and emits a warmer, friendlier fragrance. The wintersweet is a stiff, angular shrub that wants a warm planting location - although this might not be hard to provide there! - and produces somewhat coarse, homely foliage that benefits from adornment with a delicate climber such as a Viticella clematis in summer.

First I would want to find out how these are likely to behave under your conditions. The honeysuckle has become weedy in some eastern states; perhaps instead it, the other or even both would object to some characteristic of your location might have such as minerals in irrigation water.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2009 at 2:08AM
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winter honeysuckle smells like sweet lemon and has been blooming since early january. the new foliage after flowering is attractive bluish-green but it looks tatty in bloom, holding some of last years yellowing foliage. semi-evergreen here and i have it at the edge of a woods line where it is not a focal point. it is vase-shaped, about 8' tall with some minor pruning of the lower branches.
planted a wintersweet years ago but it languished and never bloomed so i took it out. was thinking our summer heat was not favorable and it might be happier in a more northern zone but can't say for sure.
ron's description of its form is accurate.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2009 at 8:56AM
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I can't add much to ron and jeff's descriptions, but if you're concerned about invasiveness (and with honeysuckles, you should!) you might consider the hybrid winter honeysuckle, l. x purpusii. It does produce a few fruits, but I haven't seen any seedlings so far.

I agree with jeff that the wintersweet might be more trouble in the deep south, it's really more of a cooler, shadier grower. Winter honeysuckle, on the other hand, can survive direct nuclear blasts. And the fragrance really is one of the best, and all the more welcome for its timing!


    Bookmark   February 24, 2009 at 9:16PM
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They are both great in my garden!
The winter honeysuckle is a prettier plant. Large (over head high) wide (just as wide as tall) and bushy. I saw it pruned to a tree on a garden show filmed in Dallas, and it was much prettier than these things growing in my garden with no pruning! They start blooming in December or January, just as we get the first hard frost that shuts the roses down. They are still blooming now, and the fragrance will catch you mid step and make you thankful for anything like THAT that blooms in the winter. A lemon scent that is very nice.
Then there are the wintersweets. More gawky and upright growing. Not attractive. But DANG IT when they bloom (January) it is just when you need it and it is a more perfumy smell. It overwinters just fine here, so it should do just as well for you.
Jeff, I think you might not have waited long enough on the wintersweet. Everything I've read has suggested that it could take up to seven years to bloom really well. One of mine, on a south wall and in full sun, has bloomed from year 2. Others are just now putting on a couple of blooms and they are in maybe year 4 or 5?

    Bookmark   February 26, 2009 at 9:09PM
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nckvilledudes(7a NC)

I have both lonicera fragrantissima and purpussi. I prefer fragrantissima over purpussi because both were purchased at the same time and were gallon sized plants and the fragrantissima is much more robust and prolific flowerwise. The fragrance of the two are very similar to me and neither has ever produced any fruit in my garden. Both do tend to hold onto leaves during the winter, only to fall off in the spring as new growth pushes out.

Of course, I have fond memories of fragrantissima growing in my grandmother's yard as a child. She called it breath of spring since it provided a much needed spring burst during the mid to late winter just when you needed it.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2009 at 3:18PM
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I've also just planted a wintersweet but have read it can be a while for it to bloom. But I also just planted a prunus mume and got a few blooms immediately. The fragrance seems comparable--spicy and cinnamon-like. Plus the prunus mume looks prettier the rest of the year.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2009 at 5:53PM
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daxin(z9 Bay Area)

Personally I like the lanceolate leaves of Wintersweet better, and with this plant, it is very important to get a cultivar such as 'Concolor' or 'Grandiflorus' since the regular species with red centered flowers has much less fragrance. It is also important to provide good drainage and a wind-protected spot. Winter Sweet can handle considerable heat and humidity as it is a common garden plant around Shanghai in China, which is roughly equivalent to Savannah, Georgia climate-wise, USDA Zone 8B/9A. Summers there are steamy hot and winters are cool and dry with occasional snowfall.

Lonicera fragrantissima is super vigorous and to me the flowers smell quite like Daphne odora. I prune my plant into a fountain shape so that I could stand underneath flowering branches. So far I have not had any volunteers. It is a great plant for fragrance.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2009 at 1:05PM
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* Prunus mume fragrance compared to wintersweet *
Not comparable. I have maybe 10 varieties of prunus mume, and they are nice, but the wintersweet is awesome.

I've got to add, BOTH the wintersweet and winterhoneysuckle are bullet proof in Texas. They don't need water, don't need attention. I literally have never watered or babied some of my plants. Just plant them somewhere out of the way and then you'll have a nice place to go visit on winter days! But having said that, the ones I appreciate the most are the ones that I have to pass by when going from my truck to the kitchen door of my home. There is a fragrance there on the dreariest days of winter, including all of the days when it's too nasty outside to spend much time traipsing through the yard.
I wouldn't pick one or the other, just get both. There are so few things that are blooming during the winter - might as well as get both of the things that A) bloom during winter and B) love Texas weather!

    Bookmark   March 3, 2009 at 12:42AM
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malmason(9, Houston TX)

Dear all,

Thank you very much for your kind reply about Winter Honeysuckle and Wintersweet. I wish I have enough space to plant both of them as I love fragrant plants.

I am very glad that they would do well in my hot Texas weather. I wonder which one keeps blooming though?

After seeing this picture that WH being trimmed like Crape Mytle, I am more inclined to try WH. If I can prune them like this, then (hopefully) I don't have to worry about their invasiveness and plant it in my front yard where I can happily get rid of lawn.

Daphne is other plant I have been longing for. There are many of them planted on a way to school, and the fragrance always reminded me of the arrival of spring. If the fragrance of WH is similar to it, it is also other plus.

Hope you have a nice weekend!

Here is a link that might be useful: Neat way to prune WH

    Bookmark   March 6, 2009 at 12:07PM
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I've read that seedlings of Wintersweet take longer to bloom, and the fragrance may be variable. Named cultivars of wintersweet are selected for fragrance and better blooming, so they're worth the extra $$.

You can prune winter honeysuckle six ways from Sunday, and it will keeping sticking out new stems and blooms. Most guides say it's best as an "informal shrub," which means it'll never look neat and clean like a boxwood, but I think Malmason's pic has it right; the best ones I've seen were limbed up like this and pruned as small trees. Older specimens have nice twisted, semi-peeling back and a wild, uncombed growth habit.

Myself, I don't have room for a full sized shrub, so I prune it back almost like a bonsai and keep it in a 14" tub, and it still blooms just fine. Awesome plant.


    Bookmark   March 8, 2009 at 12:09PM
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malmason(9, Houston TX)

Dear all,

My dear friend found WH at Arbor Gate in Tomball, and I am a new happy owner of 1 gallon WH. Hopefully I can plant it in a ground soon.

Thank you!

    Bookmark   April 9, 2009 at 11:48AM
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