Helwingia chinensis var. chinensis

Helwingia chinensis var.
Helwingia chinensis var. chinensis
Chinese helwingia
SIZE/TYPE medium-sized shrub
 taller shrub
LEAVES evergreen broadleaf
FLOWERS less showy but noticeable
LOCATION semi-shade to shade
SOIL TYPE acidic (peaty) to neutral
SOIL MOISTURE REQUIREMENTS evenly moist (dislikes drought)
USDA zone (lowest) 6   (down to -23°C)
FOR ZONE 5+6 Code of winter protection zone 5+6
FOR ZONE 7 Code of winter protection zone 7
BELONGS TO CATEGORIES Evergreen broadleaf
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Helwingia is an Asian taxon, formerly listed under cornaceae family but thanks to its unique characteristics a new family was created just for them in late 19th century – helwingiaceae. The plants form deciduous to evergreen shrubs whose main attraction are the small flowers on the midribs of the leaves. Helwingia is not generally known in Europe or America, it is mostly cultivated in specialty nurseries for plant collectors and botanical gardens as a rare plant. Being rare as well as very variable brings an expected result – mistakes in naming. In order to avoid that we rely on a rather comprehensive study put together by Japan botanists Hiroshi Hara and Sachiko Kurowasa, published in the Flora of Eastern Himalaya by the University of Tokyo in 1975.

Chinese helwingia, var. chinensis, was first described by Batalin in 1893. It is a hardy species found in North Burma, West and Central China (Yunnan, Szechuan, Kansu, Kweichou, Hupeh). For me it is the most attractive one as it produces reliably evergreen leaves. They are 5-6 cm long, narrowly lanceolate, very glossy, shallowly serrated at margins, and dark green with obscure light green veins. They emerge deep purple to burgundy red which is also the colour of young twigs.

It grows moderately to fast (20-40 cm per year), making slender, upright shoots, spreading by root runners owing to which its forms dense thickets rather than shrubs. The foliage is present top to toe making the plant a good screening option. In mid spring small flowers are produced in the centre of the widest parts of the leaves, and are followed by dark red or black berries in late summer and autumn. You must have both male and female plants to gain fruit – plants are dioecious. Unless you want the plant to spread cover its roots by weed control fabric.

Chinese helwingia naturally grows as an understory plant, it prefers semi-shaded or shaded locations under tall trees, between larger shrubs, at the shady back of the border, or behind walls and houses with limited sunlight. It likes constantly moist but well-drained soil. We experienced the best results with acidic soil where its foliage produced the richest colour. It does not like drought so keep it mulched. We have tested its hardiness so far to -24°C (USDA zone 6), it has even withstood -20°C in an outdoor pot without any damage.

Last update 31-12-2019
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Helwingia chinensis var. chinensis height 30-50 cm
Helwingia chinensis var. height 60-100 cm, width 30-40 cm

THE PRICES INCLUDE VAT of 15%. For quick conversion you can use 1 CZK = approx. 0.04 EUR


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LARGE PLANTS over 150 cmspecimens, screening and hedging shrubs

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