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Loropetalum chinensis

Loropetalum chinensis 'Sizzlin' Pink'
Family: Hamamelidaceae (witch-hazel family)
Common Name: 'Fringe Flower', 'Chinese Witchhazel', Loropetalum
Origin: Originally discovered in the Hunan province of China. Native to Japan and southeast Asia including southern China

What is that plant with burgundy leaves and odd fuschia flowers that is blooming all over town? It seems to be everywhere from commercial to residential properties. In case you didn’t know, it’s Loropetalum chinensis var. rubrum better known as ‘Fringe Flower’ or simply Loropetalum. The name may be hard to pronounce, but once you get the hang of it, it’s quite melodious and just rolls off the tongue. These plants are easy to grow and they're a great addition to any garden. Some varieties grow to be large shrubs or small trees and are ideal for the back of the border as a hedge or background for low-growing shrubs. Others are reported to grow much smaller, some only 4 or 5 feet at maturity and about the same width. Those can be kept even lower with pruning or shearing and are suitable in mid-bed plantings, containers, or borders in a bright sunny part of the landscape. When vertical stems are periodically removed, some of the newer, lower-growing varieties of Loropetalum may even be used as a large scale ground cover.

General Culture: Loropetalum prefers moist but well-drained, rich, humusy, acidic soil, but it is very adaptable to less than ideal conditions. It will, however, show chlorosis in a non-acid soil. Though this in not usually a problem in the MidSouth, alkaline conditions may exist near foundations, concrete driveways, or patios as lime may leach from the concrete into the soil. A simple soil test will tell you your soil’s pH.

Loropetalum requires no pruning except to maintain desired size. But, proper selection at the time of purchase can reduce or eliminate pruning altogether.

They flower best and have the most attractive leaf color when planted in full sun. Before planting, add generous amounts of organic humus into the planting soil to prevent root rot – a problem in poorly-draining clay soils. Be sure to set the plant so that the root ball is right at or just above ground level then mulch well.

Terrifically heat tolerant and (once established) very drought-tolerant, combined with a low incidence of pest problems, makes Loropetalum an excellent choice for the low- maintenance landscape.

Size: Loropetalum has a loose, open form and (depending on the variety) may grow as high as 20 ft (6.1 m) tall and as wide. Mature sizes of some of the new selections are unknown, but some are reported to grow to a mature height of only 4 or 5 feet. Don't be misled by small mounded plants at the garden center. Some selections will grow quickly into multi-stemmed trees. So, be sure to read the label or tag on the plants for guidelines as to the plant’s ultimate size and maintenance needs to help you make the proper selection for your location. Those older shrubs that were planted in a less than optimal location and have outgrown their space can be limbed up to make small trees.

Fertilizing: Fertilize in early spring or midsummer with a Rhododendron or Evergreen type of fertilizer. To avoid burning the feeder roots, don’t spread the fertilizer under the plant but instead at the drip-line of the plant then sure to water-in the fertilizer immediately after application.

Light: Loropetalum grows best in full sun to partial shade. Some of the bronze-leaved varieties need lots of sun to retain their dark foliage, maintain a full, dense shape, and bloom well. Though they will tolerate shade, in more than 50 percent shade the plants will be less striking than if they receive more sun.

Hardiness: USDA Zones 7A-10A. Growers estimate that the plant is hardy to about 10 degrees and perhaps as cold as 5°F (-15°C). However, in sub zero temps, they may die or be knocked back to the ground. With a thick mulch to protect roots, and a protected planting location, these plants may survive in colder zones. The white-flowering varieties seem to be a bit less cold hardy and so are more suitable for Southern states.

Moisture: The plants’ watering needs are similar to most other broadleaf evergreen shrubs. A light mulch of bark or peat moss will help retain moisture and keep the roots cool during the summer.

Pruning: Plants have a rather compact growth habit and seldom need pruning attention. As with other early-spring blooming plants, should you need to shape the plant or prune to confine its growth it is best done just after bloom.

Propagation: Propagate by planting fresh seed or take semi-ripe soft or firm cuttings in late spring or early summer. Dip the cuttings in a one-thousand ppm K-IBA and plant them into a light medium (3:1 perlite/peat). Fertilize with a diluted fertilizer and keep the medium moist until roots appear in about four to six weeks.

Flowers: The flower clusters of Loropetalum are about 2 inches across and look much like its relative the witchhazel (Hamamelis virginiana). Each flower consists of four narrow, ribbon-like petals that give the flowers a spidery appearance. Six or eight flowers clustered together produce a riot of color at peak bloom. L. chinensis’s flowers are white or yellowish while those of L. chinensis rubrum are pink, fuchsia, or red. Both bloom in spring and then continue sporadically throughout the summer.

Leaves: The leaves are oval with an alternate stem arrangement, about 1-2 in (2.5-5 cm) long, and about 1 in (2.5 cm) wide. Foliage of the white form, L. chinensis, is light green to yellowish-green and lighter on the underside. Red forms, L. chinensis rubrum, typically have leaves that are darker green and, depending on the variety, have burgundy, red or copper tints. They are bright reddish burgundy upon opening, and then turn purplish bronze, fading to greenish bronze late in the season.

Insects and Diseases: This plant has no major insect or disease problems, however, aphids may infest new growth, so be on the lookout for them.

Some Pink-flowering Loropetalum varieties:
  • ‘Blush’ – Early to midseason with hot pink flowers; light bronze new foliage that darkens to an olive green with age.
  • ‘Burgundy’ – blooms midseason; Medium-sized dark pink flowers; black-green to medium burgundy foliage; may grow slightly wider than tall.
  • ‘Daybreak's Flame’ – Late season; several hot pink flowers.
  • ‘Monraz’ – Spring to late fall; Raspberry red flowers; New foliage is burgundy and matures to olive green in color; Does best in afternoon shade
  • ‘Pipa's Red’ – Late; Large pink flowers; black- purple/burgundy foliage; may grow taller than wide.
  • 'Plum Delight' – Midseason; Large dark pink flowers; black-purple to deep burgundy foliage; Possibly the best for the hot Southeastern United States.
  • ‘Razzleberri’ - Late; Medium pink flowers; large-growing.
  • ‘Ruby’ - Midseason; medium hot pink flowers; dark-green to burgundy foliage; large growing.
  • ‘Sizzlin Pink ’ - Early to midseason; Medium pink flowers; black-purple to burgungy dark green foliage
  • ‘Suzanne’ - Midseason; Medium pink flowers; dark black-green to bronze or burgundy foliage
  • ‘Zhuzhou Fuchsia’ – Early to mid-season; Hot pink flowers; black-purple to deep purple foliage; May survive to a temperature of 10 below zero.

Some White-flowering Loropetalum varieties:
  • ‘Hillier Compacta’ – Small white flowers; spreading, ground cover habit, vigorous, horizontal spreading branches.
  • ‘Snow Dance’ – Small white flowers; green foliage; compact, shrubby habit, smaller leaves than species, slow growing; blooms later than the rest.
  • ‘Snow Muffin’ – 2 feet tall, leathery dark green leaves, smaller leaves than species.

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