Chinese loropetalum shrub goes by the alternate common name, "fringe-flower." Both this name and the botanical name refer to the appearance of the bush's blooms, the petals (petalon, in Greek) of which resemble fringe or little straps (loron, in Greek). It is an interesting look, but new cultivars such as Ruby offer more color. Learn all about this popular shrub and how to grow it.
Taxonomy, Botany, Traits of Chinese Loropetalum Shrubs
Plant taxonomy classifies Chinese loropetalum shrubs as Loropetalum chinense. This is a case where the botanical name is commonly used as the common name; when the botanical name is so used, the first letter is not capitalized.
Chinese loropetalum is an evergreen, multi-stemmed shrub of the broadleaf variety. 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.
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, Growing Conditions, Native Origin
Popular in the southeastern U.S., Chinese loropetalum is best grown in planting zones 7 to 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 fewer blooms and a less-intense foliage color for kinds such as Razzleberri, Ever Red, Ruby, and Burgundy). At the northern end of its range, you can grow them in full sun if you water them whenever the soil dries out. Young plants should be kept well watered when it is hot outside regardless of where they are growing.
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 them regularly, the shrubs can be used in hedges; otherwise, they require little, if any pruning, making them low-maintenance plants. 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 them bonsai-style (be prepared to prune 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, such as a sheltered nook near a building.
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.
Some of the various types of Chinese loropetalum shrubs 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
- L. chinense var. rubrum Razzleberri
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 to 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.
Razzleberri has raspberry-red flowers, and the new leaves bear hints of burgundy. It becomes 4 to 6 feet tall, with a spread of 4 to 5 feet.