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Stewartia sinensis is often confused with:
Schima superba Schima superba
Stewartia rostrata Flowers
Native alternative(s) for Stewartia sinensis:
Stewartia malacodendron Stewartia malacodendron
Stewartia ovata Stewartia ovata
Plants that fill a similar niche:
Stewartia pseudocamellia Leaves
Styrax japonicus Styrax japonicus
Halesia carolina Full Form

Chinese Stewartia Stewartia sinensis

Previously known as:

  • Stewartia gemmata
Phonetic Spelling
stew-ART-ee-uh sy-NEN-sis
Description

Chinese Stewartia is a  large multi-stemmed shrub or small flowering tree with attractive peeling paper-like reddish-brown bark and bowl-shaped white flowers. The fruits are woody capsules that burst open into five segments. The crown is initially oval and then opens out. The shrub or tree may reach a height of 15 to 25 feet and 10 to 20 feet in width. The plant is a member of the Theaceae family and is related to the Camellia. It is grown for its ornamental value.

This species is native to Central and Southeast China. It is typically found in forests, thickets, or the scrub of mountains.

The genus's name, Stewartia, is in honor of John Stuart who was a 16th-century Scottish botanist. The spelling was the result of a transcription error. During the 19th-century, the name Stuartia was used; however, the original spelling is now accepted. The species name, sinensis, is Latin and means "from China."

The Chinese Stewartia performs best if planted in full to partial sun or dappled shade. It prefers moist, well-drained, high organic matter, and acidic soils. It also prefers to be sheltered from strong winds. They are intolerant to drought and require high rainfall. The plant may be reproduced by seeds, softwood cuttings, or layering.

The bark is reddish-brown and peels revealing light brown to sand-colored bast. The leaves are dark green and ovate. The fall foliage is reddish-brown to reddish-purple. The flowers bloom from May to July and are fragrant, white, bowled-shaped with golden yellow stamens. The fruits are woody capsules that are present from September to November.

The Chinese Stewartia is grown for its four seasons of interest and ornamental value. Consider this shrub or small tree as an accent or specimen in your home garden for added color and year-round pleasure. Bees are attracted to the flowers. This plant would be a lovely addition to an informal or pollinator garden.

Seasons of interest:

Foliage:  Fall          Bloom: Summer       Fruit:  Fall        Bark and Stems: Winter

Quick ID Hints: 

  • peeling reddish-brown bark with light brown or tan bast
  • dark green ovate leaves
  • fall foliage brownish-red to purple
  • white Camellia-like flowers with golden stamens
  • woody capsule fruits 

Insects, Diseases, and Other Problems: There are no serious insect or disease problems. The plant prefers shelter and is drought intolerant.

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Mei Lu Shu'
    rosy fall foliage
  • 'Panache'
    variegated speckled leaves
'Mei Lu Shu', 'Panache'
Tags:
#showy flowers#deciduous#small tree#fragrant flowers#interesting bark#white flowers#winter interest#fall interest#cottage garden#flowering tree#summer flowers#fruits fall#pollinator plant#flowers mid-summer#deciduous tree#bee friendly#drought intolerant#ornamental tree#broadleaf#decidous shrub#peeling bark#wind intolerant
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Mei Lu Shu'
    rosy fall foliage
  • 'Panache'
    variegated speckled leaves
'Mei Lu Shu', 'Panache'
Tags:
#showy flowers#deciduous#small tree#fragrant flowers#interesting bark#white flowers#winter interest#fall interest#cottage garden#flowering tree#summer flowers#fruits fall#pollinator plant#flowers mid-summer#deciduous tree#bee friendly#drought intolerant#ornamental tree#broadleaf#decidous shrub#peeling bark#wind intolerant
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Stewartia
    Species:
    sinensis
    Family:
    Theaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Layering
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Central and Southeast China
    Distribution:
    Native: China North-Central, China South-Central, and China Southeast
    Wildlife Value:
    The flowers attract bees.
    Play Value:
    Attractive Flowers
    Attracts Pollinators
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    Drought intolerant
    Dimensions:
    Height: 15 ft. 0 in. - 25 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 10 ft. 0 in. - 20 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Shrub
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Multi-stemmed
    Open
    Oval
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    Low
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Dappled Sunlight (Shade through upper canopy all day)
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Available Space To Plant:
    24-60 feet
    NC Region:
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    5b, 5a, 6b, 6a, 7b, 7a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Cream/Tan
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Type:
    Capsule
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    The fruit is a woody capsule that is cone-shaped and densely hairy. The capsule opens at the tip into five segments. The seeds are obovate and measure less than 1/3 inches long. The fruits appear from September to November.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Solitary
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Summer
    Flower Shape:
    Cup
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Bracts
    Flower Size:
    1-3 inches
    Flower Description:
    The flowers are Camellia-like, showy, slightly fragrant, and solitary. The bracts and sepals are ovate and leaflike. The white petals are broadly ovate and have yellow stamens. The blooms measure 1.5 to 2 inches in diameter and appear from May to July.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Purple/Lavender
    Red/Burgundy
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Obovate
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Serrate
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The leaves are simple, elliptic to obovate-elliptic, and measure 2 to 4 inches long and 1 to 2 inches wide. The upper surface is green and smooth, and the underside is yellowish-green and pubescent. The leaf margins are serrated. The leaf base is rounded, and the apex is acute. The fall foliage color is reddish-brown to reddish-purple.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Dark Brown
    Light Brown
    Red/Burgundy
    Surface/Attachment:
    Papery
    Peeling
    Bark Description:
    The bark is reddish-brown, mottled, peeling, and papery. The peeling bark reveals the light brown to tan-colored bast.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Red/Burgundy
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Buds:
    Scaly
    Stem Surface:
    Hairy (pubescent)
    Stem Description:
    The petioles and stems are purplish-red and may be smooth or pubescent.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Lawn
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Cottage Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Accent
    Border
    Flowering Tree
    Small Tree
    Specimen
    Attracts:
    Bees