Edgeworthia is a genus of two to three species in the Thymelaeaceae family. This family also includes such garden gems as Daphne and Dirca (leatherwood). If you have ever twisted the stems of either of those plants, you might recognize the similarity to paperbush—all of these plants have very pliable shoots, which gives them the nickname “knot plant.” A native to the Szechaun province in China, Edgeworthia is used to manufacture very high quality paper.
There is great disagreement over how many species are in this genus. Some authors seem content with lumping E. chrysantha and E. papyrifera together, while others separate the two. Plant experts claim most of what is sold in the retail trade is E. chrysantha, and that E. papyrifera is easily separated from the previous since it has distinctly narrower leaves.
While paperbush is probably best suited for shaded locations, it can be grown in full sun. In either location, it requires plenty of water. At the first sign of drought, the leaves become limp, but they are easily returned to normal with a good drink.
In the fall, large clusters of tubular buds held in a 1” long umbel will appear. The outside of the floral tubes are coated in white silky hairs. In early March, the clusters of buds will begin to open into buttery-lemon-colored tubular flowers. At night, the flowers release a very sweet fragrance. The flower display should last for at least 3 weeks.
Paperbush leaves are medium-green, oval or ovate in shape, and 1.5” wide by 5”–6” long. Fall color is a clear butter yellow and develops late, typically with the first hard freeze. The stems and emerging leaves are covered with fine hairs.
Paperbush is a true deciduous shrub with a mounded habit of 6’x 6’. The texture of the branches and leaves is coarse. Paperbush is adaptable for zones 7 and 8, but it appears cold hardy in zone 6 if it is in a protected setting. Ideally, the plant should be located in partial to full shade.
The genus name is in honor of Michael Edgeworth (1812-1881) a plant collector for the East India Company. If you cannot find the plant at a local garden center, try a specialty mail order nursery.
- Common Name: paperbush
- Varieties to look for: none
- Flower Color: butter lemon
- Blooming period: early March
- Type: deciduous shrub
- Size: medium shrub; 6’ tall x 6’ wide
- Exposure: partial shade to shade
- Soil: amend with organic matter
- Watering: moist best
- When to prune: after flowering
- Suggested use: component of woodland garden, mixed shrub border