How To Grow And Care For Paper Bush

A winter garden star.

Paper bush and daffodils at Gibbs Gardens, Ball Ground, Georgia.

Paper bush (Edgeworthia chrysantha) produces highly fragrant flowers in late winter, thriving as a shade garden plant in moderate climates. Native to Asia, the paper bush, named for its bark, is a durable shrub often used to make paper goods, including banknotes, books, and wallpaper. This deciduous shrub features showy blooms that last four to six weeks and emerge from equally beautiful silver flower buds. Paper bush is a sweet-smelling plant with minimal upkeep. The plant's structure makes it suitable for hedges or as a feature plant with well-formed branches filling the shape.

Plant Attributes

Plant Attributes
 Common Name:  Paperbush, Paper Bush, Mitsumata
Botanical Name:   Edgeworthia chrysantha
 Family:  Thymelaeaceae
 Plant Type:  Shrub
 Mature Size:  3-6 ft. tall, 2-6 ft. wide
 Sun Exposure:  Full, Partial
 Soil Type:  Loamy, Moist, Well-drained, Rich
 Soil pH:  Acidic to Neutral to Alkaline (6.0 to 8.0)
 Bloom Time:  Spring
 Flower Color:  Yellow, White, Red
 Hardiness Zones:  Zones 7-10 (USDA)
 Native Area:  Asia

Paper Bush Care

Paper bush is suited to the Middle, Lower, and Coastal South (USDA Zones 7-9), although with protection, it might get by in the Upper South (USDA Zone 6). Give it light shade and moist, fertile, acidic, well-drained soil containing lots of organic material. It can tolerate more sun to provide more blooms if the plant gets enough water. Water regularly during summer and fall to keep the soil consistently moist, and water during summer droughts. Paper bush doesn't need fertilizer. It is cold-hardy to 5°F degrees. It has no serious pests, and pruning is seldom required, but do so to remove damaged or diseased branches.

Paper bush spreads by rhizomes but isn't invasive and generally forms a dense, slowly expanding clump of long, pliable stems. Cuttings root easily in moist soil. The rapidly growing paper bush grows five to eight feet tall and wide, depending on the selection. Take cuttings to display indoors.


Paper bush is a relatively heat-tolerant plant that works well in shade gardens. Keep its fragrant blooms nearby using the plant in a container on the porch or patio, facing south or west, to protect it from frost. It also works as a border plant, in mass plantings, or woodland gardens. More sun exposure means showier blooms.


Plant the paper bush in an area protected from strong winds in rich, loamy, and well-draining soil. Before planting, use a spade to ensure the ground is moist. While the paper bush thrives in most pH environments, it is best in soil rich in organic materials. Paper bush plants grow well in containers or garden beds with mixed shrubs or perennial plants.


Paper bush plants need frequent watering throughout the summer and fall or periods of extended heat. Wait to water until the top few inches of soil are dry. Winter maintenance requires less water.

Temperature and Humidity 

Protect paper bush plants from the harsh afternoon summer heat and strong winds. These plants are winter hardy in USDA Zones 7 through 10, down to 5°F, if grown in humus-rich, moist, and well-draining soil. For best results, paper bush plants need plenty of direct sun exposure. 


Paper bush plants do not need fertilizer but benefit from adding organic material to the surrounding soil yearly. Organic materials such as fully decomposed compost, straw, grass clippings, and shredded bark mulch help improve the ground. Add a layer of mulch surrounding the paper bush, but not touching the base, to help preserve moisture and protect the roots from harsh climates.

Types of Paper Bush

Paper bush is available in various showy blooms, each with distinct colors and sizes. 

  • 'Snow Cream': Boasting large clusters of highly fragrant, golden-yellow flowers, this variety is supposedly more cold-hardy than regular paper bush (down to 0°F).
  • 'Akebono' (or 'Red Dragon'): This variety features orange-red flowers and grows slower and more compact than other species. 
  • 'Grandiflora': The species with the largest flowers.
  • 'Ruby Splash': This variety is rare and contains red flowers.


Paper bush plants are low maintenance. Young shrubs don't require any pruning except to remove dead or diseased foliage. As paper bush plants mature, the shrub produces plant suckers, an unintended branch, or new growth that adds more stress to the plant. Prune plant suckers away from the primary branch structure. Keeping paper bush plants healthy as they establish will help promote better results in the future. If pruning to adjust the plant's shape or appearance, wait until after blooming to remove branches.

Summer isn't a downtime for the paper bush. After it finishes blooming, it cloaks itself with very handsome foliage reminiscent of plumeria. Long, narrow, leathery, blue-green leaves up to 10 inches long give the shrub a tropical look.

Propagating Paper Bush Plants

The easiest way to propagate paper bush plants is by taking cuttings in the summer. Here's how to propagate the paper bush plant:

  1. Select woody and semi-ripe nodal stems to cut using pruning shears or a sharp knife. 
  2. Remove leaves on the lower two-thirds of the stems.
  3. Add cutting to a well-watered container filled with organically-rich soil. Gently pack the cuttings, ensuring the entire bottom of the selection is below the top of the soil. 
  4. Place in indirect sunlight, and new roots should emerge within weeks. 

How to Grow Paper Bush Plants From Seed

Here is how to grow paper bush plants from seeds:

  1. Collect seeds from existing plants or garden centers and store them in a container within a sealed plastic bag. Keep seeds inside the container moist. 
  2. Germination can occur over the spring, but sometimes seeds require more than 12 months of warm stratification. Start with eight to 12 weeks at 70°F. Germination still might need more time at varying temperatures.
  3. After seedlings emerge, move plants to new containers or outside if planting in spring or early summer. Slowly introduce seedlings to colder temperatures before transplanting them outdoors. 
  4. Paper bush plants do not like to transplant after establishment, so try to choose a location where they can thrive permanently. 


As a winter shrub, there is very little to do during the winter. Adding a layer of organic mulch can protect the plant's roots and help retain moisture. Although it's an attractive plant throughout the year, paper bush starts to shine in late fall. Drooping, rounded flower buds covered with silky, silvery hairs appear on top of naked stems. When sunlight hits the buds, the paper bush seems to bloom already. The flower buds grow in size and prominence all winter. 

Then, in late winter, they pop open to reveal pendant clusters of white tubular blooms on the outside, tipped with yellow. The sweet fragrance reminds you that paper bush is kin to winter daphne (but it's much easier to grow). Flowering can last four to six weeks.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

This easy-to-maintain shrub does not have many pest or disease issues. Occasionally, paper bush plants are susceptible to earwigs when the soil becomes too damp. Spray soap and water solution to get rid of the infestation. Other issues include root rot-related issues from using poorly draining soil. Leaf curl or drop occurs when plants are over-or-underwatered.

Common Problems With Paper Bush Plants

Curling Leaves 

Leaf curl occurs when paper bush plants are over-watered or under-watered. Amend soil with organic materials to help encourage proper water drainage. Water more frequently in the summer.

Leaves Turning Yellow

Yellowing leaves often signify a nutrient imbalance. Lack of nitrogen in the soil can cause leaves to turn yellow, then white, starting at the bottom of the plant and moving toward the top. Stems may appear more spindly if the problem persists. Another reason for yellowing leaves is insufficient airflow. Give plants enough space, and plant them in a manageable amount of space.

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