Loropetalum Bushes

by Janet Bayers

Loropetalum chinense, commonly called Chinese fringe flower, is a member of the witch hazel family. Its flowers are similar to those of the witch hazel(Hamamelis spp.) -- bursts of spidery petals – and the plant sometimes is called evergreen witch hazel. Valued both for its flowers, which can be pink or white, and for some cultivars’ wine-colored foliage, Chinese fringe flower bushes grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 7 through 10.

1. Forms

The original fringe flower bush was a white-flowered, green-leaved plant native to China, Japan and the Himalayas. It came to the United States in 1880 but didn’t stir much excitement among gardeners. When a pink-flowered, burgundy-leaved form from China’s Hunan province was discovered, breeders went to work to produce cultivars that reached the nursery trade in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Pink-flowered bushes such as "Razzleberri" (Loropetalum chinense "Razzleberri"), which was introduced by Monrovia in 1994, and "Sizzling Pink" (Loropetalum chinense "Sizzling Pink"), introduced by Monrovia in 1998, quickly became favorites.

2. Habit

Chinese fringe flower bushes grow quickly to 6 to 12 feet tall and 6 to 10 feet wide in a rounded shape. They have a loose, graceful, arching form with small, finely-toothed evergreen leaves. The leaves of white-flowered cultivars are green. The leaves of pink-flowered cultivars emerge purple and mature to dark green with burgundy and purple overtones. The dangling flowers that give Chinese fringe flower its name appear in a flush in spring and then sporadically throughout the summer into fall.

3. Cultivation

Plant Chinese fringe flower in moist, well-drained, acidic soil with plenty of organic matter. It thrives in full morning sun but prefers shade from hot afternoon sun. In USDA zone 7, give it a spot protected from cold wind, or it isn’t likely to be evergreen. Mulch the plants to retain soil moisture and discourage weeds. Once established, Chinese fringe flower is drought-tolerant. Fertilize in spring and again in early summer with a slow-release, balanced fertilizer. Prune immediately after spring bloom is finished.

4. White-Flowered Cultivars

“Carolina Moonlight” (Loropetalum chinense “Carolina Moonlight”) is a spreading plant that grows about 4 feet tall by 5 feet wide and blooms prolifically from late winter to early spring. “Snow Muffin” (Loropetalum chinense “Snow Muffin”) is a dwarf form growing 1 to 3 feet tall and wide with a mounded shape. Its new growth is pale green, becoming dark green with age.

5. Pink-Flowered Cultivars

Cultivars of Loropetalum chinense var. rubrum have purple foliage and pink flowers. “Razzleberri” (Loropetalum chinense var. rubrum “Razzleberri”) grows 6 feet tall and 5 feet wide with raspberry-pink blooms. “Razzle Dazzle” (Loropetalum chinense var. rubrum “Razzle Dazzle”) grows 8 feet tall and 6 feet wide with pink flowers against burgundy-tinted green foliage. “Pipa’s Red” (Loropetalum chinense var. rubrum “Pipa’s Red”) has longer, narrower, purple leaves and hot pink flowers. It grows 5 feet tall and wide.