Winter Plum flowers

Winter Plum flowers and traditional Chinese architecture are a perfect match

Winter Plum is native to China, mainly growing in the Yangtze River delta region, including Suzhou, Shanghai and Hangzhou, with the biggest plum garden in Wuxi.

The plum normally blossoms in mid-winter during January and February when all flowers die and the land is pale in colour. The plum trees can grow to 4–10 metres tall and the flowers with five petals in bright colour of red, pink and yellow have a refreshing fragrant scent.

This brave flora is commonly viewed as China’s national flower, the symbol of strength and humbleness with the courage to stand against a trend that is harsh and undesirable. And above all, it is a messenger for spring and brings hope for a better season ahead.

Over the centuries, the specie has also been introduced to Japan, Korea and Vietnam.

A winter plum flower-shaped viewing window

A winter plum flower-shaped viewing window on a garden partition wall in a classic Chinese building compound

Pink Winter Plum blossoms by a Chinese garden gate

Pink Winter Plum blossoms by a Chinese garden gate in the shape of a flower vase

Wuxi Plum garden

China’s biggest plum garden in Wuxi

One of the best (if not THE best) places to appreciate winter plums in China is the Plum Garden (梅园) in Wuxi (无锡), a lake city near Suzhou.

And the best time to view the winter plum blossoms is of course in winter, particularly after snow. Imagine when the red and pink dots scatter on a white carpet that covers the entire land.

Red plums in snow in a Chinese garden.

Red plums in the snow in a Chinese garden.

Ode to Winter Plum Blossoms – Computer-generated calligraphy

Ode to Winter Plum Blossoms
Author of the poem: Chairman Mao:

Windy rains observe spring to go,
Stormy snow welcomes spring to return.
On the ice-clad rock high and sheer,
A flower blooms pure and fair.

She has no intention to win a beauty contest in spring,
But content to be a messenger for the season that is coming.
When the land is fully covered by blossom,
She happily disappears from the mountain.

Tea and plum flowers

Tea and plum flowers – Ink painting by Chinese artist Liu Shengchun

painting winter plum flowers on a paper umbrella

A Chinese artist painting winter plum flowers on a paper umbrella

Ode to Red Plum Blossom 


Mile HsiangYang Lee:
I’ve always bought those – white pussy willows. White pussy willows are 1 of the many variety or species of the cherry blossoms. I’ve always assumed, those are the national flowers since those are in china – what the west called the Chinese porcelains, mostly in white.

All Things Chinese:
Cherry blossom is Japan’s national flower.

White pussy willows do look like winter plums. But again, my level of knowledge in botany, just like my expertise in calligraphy, is below average. I can only identify a few well-known flowers and plants with cultural significance. Beyond that, they all look the same to me.

With regard to China’s national flower. Winter Plum blossom is the most praised flower in traditional Chinese culture for over two thousand years, and you can find tons of classic poems attributed to this special flora.

KMT government based in Nanjing where winter plums grow declared it as the national flower, but the same official declaration has not been made by the CPC government situated in Beijing in northern China where winter plum does not grow.

Some people from the north prefer to have peony as the national flower because that blossom is traditionally regarded as the queen in the floral kingdom ever since the woman emperor Wu Zetian, and it is the symbol of royalty, wealth and happiness.

Personally, l am not a fan of peony – it’s an attention seeker, trend chaser, self-centred, too loud in colour and too picky over its living condition (soil and temperature).

2 thought on “China’s Unique Winter Plum Flowers”
  1. Like a great white bird,
    opening its wings
    the winter garden, in silver moonlight
    a shadow of silence
    New Years Wind
    with falling snow
    the lake has frozen
    this night
    only the plum tree
    Thinks of spring….

    Happy New Year to everyone!!!

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