Plant Taxonomy of Chinese Loropetalum Shrubs:
Plant taxonomy classifies Chinese loropetalum shrubs as Loropetalum chinense. "Chinese fringe flower" is listed as a common name, but this is a case where the botanical name is more commonly used in some circles than the common name; when the botanical name is used as an alternate common name below, the first letter is not capitalized.
Plant Type, Characteristics:
This bush is in the witch hazel family. You can see the similarity of the flower to that of the namesake shrub of this family, witch hazel shrub, which also bears a fringe-like bloom. Bloom time is March or April, depending on where you garden.
The shrub bears clusters of subtly fragrant flowers in spring. The flowers on Loropetalum chinense bushes are white or off-white. But it is the rubrum variety, with its reddish or pink flowers, that has made this bush popular in landscaping. The rubrum types are popular not only for their flowers, but also for the color of their leaves (see below, where Ever Red®, 'Ruby' and 'Burgundy' are mentioned).
The plant has a spreading form and, under ideal conditions, may attain a height of 12 feet with a width that is about the same (or sometimes less than that).
Planting Zones, Sun and Soil Requirements, Native Origin:
Popular in the southeastern U.S., Chinese loropetalum is best grown in planting zones 7-10.
It may survive winter in a colder climate but most likely will not be evergreen there. The bush is native to the Far East.
Chinese loropetalum shrub prefers a rich, well-drained loam with some acidity. The further south you go, the more loropetalum can profit from a location with partial shade (which may, however, result in a diminution of blooms and a less-intense foliage color for kinds such as Ever Red®, 'Ruby' and 'Burgundy').
Keep young plants well watered.
Uses for Chinese Loropetalum Shrubs, Care, and Pushing the Hardiness Envelope:
Chinese loropetalum shrubs are used in landscaping as specimen plants and in foundation plantings, for example. If you are willing to shear it regularly, the shrub can be used in hedges; otherwise, it requires little, if any pruning, making it a low-maintenance plant. On the other end of the spectrum -- for those who relish the idea of putting a lot of care into growing their plants -- you can grow it as a bonsai (be prepared to prune it meticulously).
Thinking of growing this plant in a climate colder than zone 7? To increase the shrub's chances of survival, apply garden mulch to protect its root system and grow it where it will enjoy a warmer microclimate.
Mix compost into the soil at planting time. Not only will the compost act as a slow-release fertilizer, but it will also improve drainage. This is important for Chinese loropetalum shrub, which is susceptible to root rot. For the same reason, when you plant the bush, be sure not to sink the top of the root ball below the soil surface.
Name Origin, Popular Types:
Both the common name, "Chinese fringe-flower" and the botanical name, Loropetalum derive from the appearance of the bush's flower, the petals (petalon, in Greek) of which resemble fringe or little straps (loron, in Greek).
Three of the various types of Chinese loropetalum shrub cultivars that have been developed for those not content with the white flowers and green foliage offered by the original are:
- L. chinense var. rubrum 'Burgundy'
- L. chinense var. rubrum 'Ruby'
- L. chinense var. rubrum Ever Red®
The 'Burgundy' cultivar may be the best pick for foliage fanatics. When young, the leaves of 'Burgundy' are reddish-purple. In summer, its leaves darken, becoming a greenish-purple. But in autumn, the foliage turns a bright red. Its pink blooms stand out well against its foliar color. 'Burgundy' reaches a height of 6-10 feet, with a similar width.
Being a true dwarf, 'Ruby' makes for a nicely compact, rounded shrub, averaging 4 feet by 4 feet. Its new foliage is ruby red (thus the name) and its flowers hot pink.
If you really crave a type with red flowers, the closest thing that you will find to a true red is Ever Red®. Its leaves are a dark burgundy color, and its size is approximately 5 feet by 5 feet.
Other Bushes for Full Sun
Are you too far North to grow this bush? Learn about some other great choices (that are more cold-hardy) for sunny areas in the article, Shrubs for Sun: the 10 Best Bloomers.