Garden guru: Adorable loropetalum

By From page A5 | August 13, 2014

One of my favorite shrubs that perform well as a specimen or mass planting has a strikingly beautiful form and flower. The Chinese loropetalum (Loropetalum chinense) is more commonly known as the “Chinese fringe flower.” Chinese loropetalum is a broadleaf evergreen shrub that has a spreading habit and may reach a height of 12 feet with a width of 6 feet to 8 feet.

In Community Park at the El Dorado Hills Community Services District, we have planted several specimen forms in ceramic containers to add some visual and botanical interest to a hardscape plaza. We also have the shrub featured in foundation plantings. The shrub as a specimen boasts graceful branching and a delightfully delicate bloom resembling fringe. The flowers are fragrant in the spring, with the most common cultivar colors ranging from off-white to red and pink.

Chinese loropetalum prefers a rich, well-drained loam soil with some acidity which can be accomplished through the incorporation of compost or peat moss. In our hot, drier climate, loropetalum can benefit from a partial shade location though this may, however, result in a reduction of blooms. Newly planted younger plants should be well-watered until established.

If you’re willing to invest some maintenance time in pruning, the shrub can be used in hedges; otherwise, it requires little if any pruning, making it an excellent low-maintenance plant.

Both the common name, “fringe-flower,” and the Latin name, Loropetalum, derive from the appearance of the shrub’s flower, the petals (petalon, in Greek) of which resemble fringe or little straps (loron, in Greek). Chinese loropetalum is in the witch-hazel family; those familiar with the flowers of witch-hazel tree will notice the strong family resemblance.

Two Chinese loropetalum cultivars that have been developed for gardeners not content with the more common white flowers and green foliage offered by the original are Loropetalum chinense var. rubrum “Burgundy” and Loropetalum chinense var. rubrum “Ruby.”

“Burgundy” — This pair of Chinese fringe flowers may be the best picks for foliage fanatics. When young, the leaves of “Burgundy” are reddish-purple. In summer, its leaves darken, becoming a greenish-purple but in fall, the foliage turns a bright red. Its pink blooms are very showy against its leaf color. “Burgundy” reaches a height of 6 to 10 feet, with a similar width.

Being a true dwarf, “Ruby” makes for a nice compact, rounded shrub, averaging 4 feet by 4 feet. Its new growth foliage is ruby red (hence the name) and its flowers are a vibrant hot pink. How adorable is that? Happy gardening!

Brent Dennis


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