Helwingia himalaica

Helwingia himalaica
Helwingia himalaica 
Himalayan helwingia
SIZE/TYPE medium-sized 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 Japanese botanists Hiroshi Hara and Sachiko Kurowasa, published in the Flora of Eastern Himalaya by the University of Tokyo in 1975.

Himalayan helwingia comes from East Nepal and West China and was first described in 1879. It is a rare, evergreen, or semi-deciduous shrub with attractive and unusual leaves. They are 5-11 cm long, 1-4 cm wide, narrowly lanceolate, caudate (with a small tail at the tip), rather matte, shallowly serrated at margins, maroon as they emerge and medium green when mature. The plant always keeps its newest leaf red even in winter.

It grows moderately to fast (30-40 cm per year), making slender, upright shoots, spreading by root runners owing to which its forms dense thickets rather than shrubs, and in colder climate it may act like a subshrub with only about one or two feet from the ground is preserved after winter. Unrequired spreading can be prevented by covering its roots by weed control fabric. In mid spring small flowers are produced in the centre of the widest parts of the leaves (midribs) 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.

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).

Last update 28-11-2021

Helwingia chinensis var.
Helwingia chinensis
  • STANDARD QUALITY - Plants of this group are 1st class quality with number of branches and overall density adequate to their size and age, considering they were container grown.
  • DE LUXE QUALITY - This label guarantees a luxurious quality of manually selected plants that, compared to their height and age, are exceptionally dense and beautiful.
  • EXTRA - These plants are usually mature and bigger specimens with exceptional overall appearance.
  • STANDARD (as described in the plant form) means a tree with a trunk of 190-210 cm and a crown at the top, unless specified differently. The commercial size for trees is their girth measured in the height of 1m from ground.
  • HOBBY - These plants are of the same quality as our standard-quality plants but younger and therefore cheaper.
  • SHRUB - a woody plant with branches growing bushy from the ground level.
  • HALF-STANDARD or MINI-STANDARD - a small tree with shorter trunk, its size is usually specified.
  • FEATHERED - These are trees with branches growing already from the base of the trunk and up along the stem.
  • GRASSES and PERENNIALS - Sizes given usually read the diameter of the pot or the clump, as specified.
LARGE PLANTS over 150 cmspecimens, screening and hedging shrubs

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