Loropetalum, also called Chinese fringe flowers, are evergreen, multi-stemmed shrubs of broadleaf variety that are most well-known for their delicate, fragrant blooms. Aside from their frilly flowers, the foliage of loropetalum is also of interest, changing colors throughout the year from hues of red to deep green. Plant these medium to fast growing shrubs in the fall for clusters of subtly fragrant flowers in the spring.
|Common Name||Chinese fringe flower, strap flower, Chinese witch hazel|
|Botanical Name||Loropetalum chinense|
|Family||Hamamelidaceae (witch hazel)|
|Mature Size||6 ft. to 10 ft. tall with same width (depending on type)|
|Sun Exposure||Sun, part shade|
|Soil pH||Acidic, neutral|
|Flower Color||Pink, red, white, yellow-white (depending on type)|
|Hardiness Zones||7-10 (USDA)|
|Native Area||China, Japan, Taiwan|
Loropetalum Shrub Care
Chinese fringe flowers are considered to be low-maintenance, hardy, but showy shrubs. These relatives of the witch hazel shrub, which share similar-looking fringe blooms, are adaptable to a wide range of light, soil, and moisture conditions. Chinese fringe flowers are also great privacy shrubs and can be successfully used for hedging or topiaries.
Grow Chinese fringe flowers in a bright, sunny location that receives partial shade throughout the day. Ideally, these shrubs should be protected from intense midday rays but receive dappled morning sun. They can also tolerate growing in sunny to part-shady conditions.
Chinese fringe flowers require well-draining, loamy, acidic soil that is rich in organic matter. A pH between 4.5 to 6.5 is best. To help retain moisture and suppress weeds, mulch around the root ball of a Chinese fringe flower shrub with 2 to 3 inches of compost, straw, or aged wood chips.
Young plants should be kept deeply watered when it is hot outside. Plan on giving shrubs about 2 inches of water once or twice a week. Once established, Chinese fringe flowers are relatively drought tolerant. However, they grow best when the soil is kept consistently moist.
Temperature and Humidity
Chinese fringe flowers grow best in USDA zones 7 to 10, tolerating winter temperatures as low as 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-17.8 degrees Celsius). However, in regions that experience chilly winters, it is recommended that Chinese fringe flowers are planted in areas that protect them from cold winter winds.
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 a 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.
If they are planted in the right soil, Chinese fringe flowers require little to no supplemental fertilizer once they are established. If desired, established they can benefit from annual fertilizing in early spring with a slow-release, all-purpose fertilizer, or one that is specially formulated for shrubs.
However, Chinese fringe flowers that are planted in nutrient-poor soil will require additional feeding. Amend the soil regularly with organic matter such as compost, grass and leaf clippings, and manure (composted).
Types of Loropetalum
The typical loropetalum has green foliage and white or off-white flowers. Other varieties have bright red or pink flowers and purple foliage that make this bush popular in landscaping. Here are a few popular varieties with colorful blooms:
- 'Pizazz' grows 6 to 8 feet tall and wide, and grows lovely plum-colored flowers with dark purple leaves.
- 'Burgundy' grows up to 10 feet and offers pink blooms with reddish-purple leaves that become greenish-purple in the summer, then bright red in autumn.
- 'Ruby' averages 4 feet in height and width with hot pink flowers and ruby-red foliage, plus it's a true dwarf, ideal for a nicely compact, rounded shrub.
- 'Ever Red' grows about 5 feet high and wide with flowers that bloom a true red with burgundy leaves.
- 'Razzleberri' grows an average of 4 to 6 feet tall and wide with raspberry-red flowers and leaves that bear a hint of burgundy.
- 'Shang-Red', also known by brand names Red Diamond or Purple Diamond ('Shang-hi') because they are nearly identical, grows up to 6 feet tall. Both have rich burgundy foliage with deep red or purple-pink flowers.
These low-maintenance shrubs are extremely tolerant of the type of heavy pruning required for hedging, foundation plantings, and topiaries. However, Chinese fringe flowers do not require this type of pruning, and they grow into a naturally graceful shape that many appreciate. The flowers of this shrub bloom on old wood, so when pruning Chinese fringe flowers it is best to wait until after the blooming period in the summer to early fall.
Chinese fringe flowers can be propagated by softwood cuttings (fresh, new growth). Take these simple steps:
- Take 6-inch cuttings of softwood growth in the spring or summer.
- Remove the leaves on the bottom 2 to 3 inches of each cutting, ensuring that at least two sets of leaves are left on the top.
- Dip the bottom of the cuttings in a rooting hormone.
- Plant them in a pot with a 50/50 mixture of peat and perlite.
- Place plastic bags over the potted cuttings and make sure the bags are large enough so they do not touch the cuttings. Keep the soil consistently moist but not soggy.
- Within four to six weeks the cuttings should develop roots, although they should not be planted in your garden until the following growing season.
The plant is popular in the Southeastern U.S., and it may survive in a colder climate but most likely will not be evergreen there. If your winters are frosty, increase the shrub's chances of survival by applying 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.
Common Pests & Plant Diseases
Chinese fringe flowers are not especially susceptible to many pests or diseases, however, they can fall victim to common problems such as spider mites, aphids and root rot. The shrub may also be prone to diseases such as anthracnose, powdery mildew. A bacterial gall disease (caused by the bacterium Pseudomonas savastanoi) could be found on leaves and stems of loropetalums shrubs growing in the southern parts of the U.S.
Common Problems With Loropetalum
Loropetalum is an easy-care, fuss-free plant. However, you may encounter a couple of problems that can indicate the plant is under stress.
The yellowing of leaves (called chlorosis) may mean the soil in which the loropetalum is growing is too alkaline, reaching over 7.0 pH. A problem with mites may also cause the leaves to yellow.
Leaves Won't Turn Purple
You may have a type of loropetalum that normally has green foliage for at least part of the year. But if you have the type that should have persistent purple leaves, it may be that your plant is either in too much shade, too much sun, or once again, the soil is too alkaline. If you think the plant is growing in the right lighting and soil conditions, try fertilizing it and see if the leaves turn purple over time.
What looks good with loropetalum?
How do you keep loropetalum purple?
It's best to plant a type of loropetalum that offers four-season purple foliage color, such as the brands Red Diamond or Purple Diamond.
What is the difference between loropetalum and Chionanthus retusus?
Loropetalum's common name, Chinese fringe flower, is also similar to the common name for the tree Chionanthus retusus. The common name for the tree is the Chinese fringe tree. Though they look nothing alike, there's always a lingering confusion between the two plants because of the nearly identical common names.
KEY PLANT: CHINESE FRINGE (LOROPETALUM CHINENSE). Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida.
Loropetalum chinense 'Shang-Red' RED DIAMOND. Missouri Botanical Garden.
Loropetalum. Home and Garden Information Center, Clemson University Cooperative Extension.
Chionanthus retusus. North Carolina State University Extension.