Loropetalum, Saucy Cousin of Witchhazel

Loropetalum is an evergreen broadleaf shrub or small tree that blooms in early spring. During the rest of the year, the rubrum variety has attractive burgundy or bronzy to pink foliage interspersed with, or sometimes turning mostly green. Leaves placed alternately along the stem are simple, ovate, one to two inches long and about an inch wide. Branches held outward in horizontal layers display the flowers and colorful foliage to their best advantage. Flowers have four straplike petals less than an inch long, but they are crowded together in groups of three to six or more in the leaf axils. Flowers are sometimes followed by a woody capsule that holds the seeds.

Cultural Preferences and General Maintenance

Loropetalum prefers moist, slightly acidic, well-drained soil. Conditions that suit azaleas are generally good for loropetalum, except that the loropetalum appreciates a bit more sun than azaleas. They do well in full sun to light or partial shade. A two-to three-inch layer of organic mulch will help to conserve moisture, which should be maintained for best performance.

Although lorapetalum takes well to pruning and can be maintained as a hedge at almost any height, it has a naturally arching, tiered look that can be lost when pruned into meatball shapes. It is best to plant loropetalum in a place where no pruning is necessary. However, if pruning is needed, tackle the task in spring after the flowers fade. Try to maintain the natural form by reaching deep into the shrub and pruning out selected branches. Then tip prune the remaining branches as needed to maintain the desired size.

An application of fertilizer formulated for azaleas and camellias will promote the acid soil that loropetalum prefers. Many gardeners prefer to rake back the mulch and sprinkle the fertilizer lightly out to the dripline of the shrub. Others simply sprinkle the fertilizer on top of the mulch and water in thoroughly. I prefer the second approach, as it is easier and there is less worry about damaging tender feeder roots that lie near the soil surface.

Propagating Loropetalum

Layering is an easy means of propagation with most loropetalums, as limbs grow near the ground. It is simple enough to wound the bottom of a limb and put it in contact with the soil by pinning it down or placing a rock or brick over it to hold it in place. Treated this way, rooted limbs can be removed the following season.

Cuttings can be taken about midsummer from the current season’s growth. Take tip cuttings of well hydrated plants, and place them in water if they are not being struck immediately. As soon as possible, place the cuttings in damp potting soil. A dip in rooting hormone may encourage rooting. Maintain moisture, but be sure that the soil is well-drained so that your cuttings won’t rot before they strike roots. Over-winter the cuttings in a protected place. They should be ready to plant in a larger container or in the landscape by the following spring.

Seedlings may appear underneath established shrubs. These can be removed and potted up or planted in other places in the landscape.

Loropetalum in the Garden

Give considerable attention to where this shrub is placed in the landscape. With most cultivars, the foliage is a reddish or purplish color. In spring, the bright magenta-colored flowers are apt to clash with most other flowers that bloom at the same time. While it is bright enough in the early spring when it is adorned with the colorful flowers, the dark-foliaged selections can lend a dark feeling to a landscape if too many are planted.

Remember, too, that many selections can grow from 10 to 15 feet tall or more in about ten years. The pretty little shrub that you purchase at the nursery may give you grief in later years if it is poorly sited. Conversely, it can be a long-lived, beautiful addition to your landscape if it is placed correctly. It makes a beautiful specimen plant and can even be pruned into a small, multitrunked tree by removing the lower branches.

Cultivars of Loropetalum

Loropetalum chinense has white flowers, but L. chinense var. rubrum has the colorful flowers that have made the species so popular. Mature size is approximate and is influenced by growing conditions. Names are confused in the trade, and some with different names are actually the same. In addition, some have been given trademark names that are different from the cultivar name. Below are some of the most well-known cultivars.

‘Burgundy’ – One of the earliest cultivars; introduced into North America in the late 1980’s. Rich, reddish purple foliage that matures to dark green with a purplish cast; dark pink flowers; 14+ feet tall.

‘Blush’, RazzleberriTM, ‘Piroche Form’, ‘Daybreak’s Flame’ – Also an early introduction; light, pink-tinged leaves with paler, rose-colored flowers; 6 feet tall and about as wide..

‘Ruby’ – Shiny, ruby-red new growth; compact form tops out at 4 to 5 feet tall and wide

‘Bicolor’ – Vigorous cultivar with deep maroon leaves turning to dark olive green as the season progresses; white flowers with light pink streak

‘Fire Dance’ – Reddish purple new growth changing to green as season progresses; hot pink flowers; 3-6 feet tall.

‘Hines Purpleleaf’, Plum DelightTM, ‘Hines Burgundy’, PizazzTM – New growth rosy red aging to dark bronze. Dark rose-colored flowers. 6-8 feet tall.

‘Sizzlin’ Pink’ – reddish purple new growth matures to purple-green; hot pink flowers; 4-6 feet.

‘Suzanne’ – Reddish purple new growth; compact habit; leaves are more rounded than species; medium-pink flowers. To 5 feet tall.

‘Zhuzhou Fuscia’ – Blackish maroon leaf color that persists into summer. Deep pink flowers. Large – up to 10 feet tall.

‘Pipa’s Red’ – Very dark purple foliage; bright pink flowers. Compact to 5 feet tall.

Loropetalum chinense var. rubrum ‘Ruby’ L. chinense var. rubrum ‘Purple Pixie’ L. chinense var. rubrum ‘Blush’

At a Glance

Scientific name: Loropetalum chinense var. rubrum

Pronunciation: lor-oh-PET-al-um chi-NEN-see (variety) ROO-brum

Hardiness: USDA Zones 7-10

Family: Hamamelidaceae (witchhazel)

Common names: Chinese witchhazel, fringe flower, Chinese fringe flower

Origin: China, Japan, and southeastern Asia

Relatives: Hamamelis (witch hazel), Liquidambar styraciflua (sweetgum)

Propagation: Seeds; cuttings; layering of lower limbs

Thanks to htop for her image of Loropetalum seed pods. All other images are the author’s.

Fringe Flower (Loropetalum)

The name is derived from the Greek loros or Latin lorum meaning strap or thong and petalum meaning petal. While the genus name chinense means originating from China, this plant can be found growing naturally from the foothills of the Himalayas through to Japan.

In its original white or cream flowering form, it is a shrub up to 4 metres high. More recent cultivars with deep pink flowers, tend to be 1.5 -2m and about 2m wide, a size more suited to the suburban garden. “China Pink” is a popular cultivar in Australia.

The Loropetalum is generally an evergreen plant but if grown in cooler climates, the it will display a deciduous habit. New foliage has a red/purple colour and as the leaves mature the change to green/bronze. This habit tied in with the flowering on and off throughout the year, provides an ever changing display, a visual feast with little effort.

Left unpruned the branches will gracefully curve downwards displaying a lovely, broad rounded form. Loropetalum can also be pruned into many shapes and sizes. As a border hedge, the changing colour adds interest to you garden beds. It can also be pruned as a screening hedge for fencing or sheds and as a loose topiary; you can’t go past a pink love heart. If garden space is an issue for you, Loropetalum also makes a good tub specimen. In a pot you will need to provide it with adequate all round light and a regular supply of water.

Planted in full sun a Loropetalum shrub will remain dense and flower well. It will also enjoy being used as an understory plant, with a more open form an considerably less flowers.

This shrub will cope with average soil tending towards acidic. While it handles dry periods very well, good water supply at some point of the year will keep your Loropetalum looking good all year long. This can be seen on the Range at the moment. We have had little rain for 2 months, yet many specimens have been giving us a fabulous winter display.

Pruning after flowering will give you a denser flower display the following year though as Loropetalum flowers so profusely XXXXXXXX

Propagation is by semi hardwood cuttings in late spring or summer or fresh seed. Plants produced by seed will be slow to grow and will not be true to the form or colour of the parent plant.

If its hassle free gardening you are after, take a leaf or at least a semi-hardwood cutting out of your Grandma’s garden and plant a Loropetalum.

Pruning Overgrown Loropetalums: When And How To Prune A Loropetalum

Loropetalum (Loropetalum chinense) is a versatile and attractive evergreen shrub. It grows fast and can be used in many different ways in the landscape. The species plant offers deep green leaves and a mass of white flowers, but cultivars vastly expand the color choices. You can find loropetalum with foliage and flowers in eye-popping shades.

Loropetalum grows fast, often ending up as wide or wider as it is tall. This vibrant plant, also called Chinese witch hazel or Chinese fringe plant, thrives without pruning. However, if this shrub outgrows the space you have allotted for it in the garden, you may start asking how to prune a loropetalum. Pruning this plant is easy. Read on for tips on pruning a loropetalum.

Loropetalum Pruning Tips

Loropetalum plants generally range from 10 to 15 feet high, with a similar width, but they can get much taller. Specimens have reached 35 feet tall over 100 years. If you want to keep your loropetalum a specific size, you’ll need to trim back the plant. Severe loropetalum pruning should only be done when absolutely required since it detracts from the plant’s natural shape.

On the other hand, as long as your loropetalum pruning occurs at the right time, you can hardly go wrong. For top results, pick the best time for trimming loropetalums. Pruned during the appropriate season, the evergreen shrubs tolerate severe pruning and grow rapidly, so any loropetalum pruning errors are quickly forgotten.

Best Time for Trimming Loropetalums

According to experts, it is best to delay pruning a loropetalum until spring, after it has bloomed. Since loropetalum sets its buds in summer, autumn pruning reduces the next season’s flowers.

How to Prune a Loropetalum

How to prune a loropetalum depends on how much you want to cut it back. If you want to reduce size by a few inches, cut individual stems with a pruner. This will help maintain the natural, vase-shape of the bush.

On the other hand, if you want to dramatically reduce plant size, feel free to chop off as much as you like. This is one shrub that accepts almost any pruning. Pruning a loropetalum can even be done with shears. If you are pruning overgrown loropetalum, you might prune it back two times during the year, reducing it each time by about 25 percent.

Loropetalum – Growing Guide

Commonly known as ‘Chinese Fringe Flower’

These plants are growing in popularity especially in milder regions for two reasons. They flower in winter or early spring which is a novelty and their foliage has a spectacular red, purple or multi-coloured effect. They are showing up in many more border designs and although hardy only to around -5°C they are performing well in city gardens and municipal park plantings.

Loropetalum are small shrubs found in the woodland of Japan and China. Their flowers are spider like and white in the true species. The flower cymes are around ¾in across and appear in profusion. The cultivars which we grow have reddish or pinkish purple flowers and are scented. The odd flower can appear in the nursery on these slightly odd shrubs at any time of the year.

The contrast or complementarity between the red or purple foliage and the flowers makes for a pleasing effect. This can be even more dramatic in L. chinense ‘Daybreak’s Flame’.

Loropetalum are best grown in partial shade with wind protection in fertile soil with plenty of compost added. They detest being waterlogged in a boggy area. Ultimately they may achieve 4-6ft in height with a similar spread but this takes quite a time. It is better to regard them as low mounded semi groundcover shrubs at first.

Semi-ripe new growth cuttings will root quickly with bottom heat.

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