To be honest, this is not my favourite luculia but it is the one that you are most likely to find offered for sale and it stays somewhat smaller than the other types we grow.
Do not let the fact that this winter flowering shrub hails from the Himalayas lull you into thinking it is hardy. It does not like frost at all and much more than a few degrees will cause short term damage to the foliage and possibly take out the winter blooms for the year. A heavy frost may kill it. However, you can learn a lesson from the fact that it is a forest tree in the Himalayas. If you have areas of the garden with good overhead cover from larger, evergreen trees, you may succeed with this plant, even in frosty inland areas. And it looks a great deal more attractive, in my opinion, when grown as a woodland plant.
The common practice in this country is to plant Early Dawn in full sun in the open and to keep it hard pruned and therefore more compact. It then covers itself in its rather harsh candy pink flowers (which are at least sweetly scented), shouting “Look at me! Look at me!” Its foliage develops a red tinge in cold temperatures and if an untimely frost catches it, you then have this rather unsightly, little shrub with shrivelled leaves. The plant we have in our woodland, however, is tall (2.5m), willowy, graceful and the sugar pink flower heads contrast well with all the greenery. It is a very different picture to the one we have in the open. Get it into woodland, is my advice, into ground rich in litter and humus. Then it may cheer up a bleak winter’s day.
First published in the Waikato Times and reproduced here with their permission.