We have been growing Loropetalum chinense since 1992
Loropetalum chinense, sometimes called the fringe flower, is a beautiful
and versatile shrub that is a member of the witch hazel family (Hamameliadaceae) from
China and the Himalayas. It is usually seen as a dense rounded shrub that only grows to 3-5 feet tall with arching branches bearing soft 1-2 inch long light green leaves.
The typical form has white flowers, each with 4 narrow petals, clustered at the
branch tips. Flowering is heaviest in the spring but sporadic flowers are likely
to occur at anytime of the year. The versatility of Loropetalum is that it can be
grown in mild coastal climates in light shade to full sun, yet can tolerate the cooler
winter temperatures and heat associated with other regions. A primary difference in
the plants grown in these extremes is whether the plant remains evergreen or not.
Here in coastal California, it is evergreen and older specimens can be found that
have obtained a height of 15 feet; more a small tree than a shrub. In colder
climates (Zone 7 USDA and below) one can at best expect Loropetalum to be a deciduous shrub. Plant in neutral to slightly acidic soil and irrigate occasionally - plants prefer it moist but not wet.
The white fringe flower has always been an underused plant but with the recent introduction
of new red and pink flowering forms (Loropetalum chinense var. rubrum cultivars), the popularity of the entire genus is assured. A measure of this new status is that one can now buy Loropetalum at Home Depot and other mass merchandisers. These new cultivars
have emerged on the market so rapidly since their initial introduction to the United States
that adequate descriptive data and cultural information is severely lacking. In addition,
and much to the disservice to the retail consumer, these plants are being marketed in areas
where they are not likely to thrive.
How hardy are these plants?
This is still under debate but Hortus, the encyclopedia of horticultural knowledge in the United States lists hardiness to between 10-20 degrees F and the Royal Horticulture Encyclopedia of Plants states the same. This information is contradicted however by data from a test garden in Georgia that recorded 4 degrees F without damage to Loropetalum chinense var. rubrum cultivars and laboratory tests have run these plants down to 0 degrees F. Generally it is thought that Loropetalum can be planted as far north as Virginia in the eastern states and is hardy throughout the western states along the coast. It is reported that Loropetalum can be safely brought through winter in a unheated cold frame in New York City.
That these plants are heat tolerant is also indicated by the wide area of the country where these plans grow and also by the high rating of 9 given for cultivars that corresponds to the American Horticultural Society's (AHS) Plant Heat-Zone Map. This rating indicates that Loropetalum tolerates 121 to 150 days of temperatures over 86° F.
The Loropetalum we currently grow or have grown:
This is the originally described species with white flowers. It is a dense rounded shrub with arching branches bearing soft 1-2 inch long light green leaves that typically only grows to 3-5 feet tall although older specimens can be found that have obtained the height to 15 feet. The white flowers, each with 4 narrow petals, are clustered at the branch tips. Flowering is heaviest in the spring but sporadic flowers
are likely to occur at anytime of the year. This is a great plant for the woodland garden.
Loropetalum chinense var. rubrum 'Blush'
This cultivar was one of the first red flowered forms to hit the nursery trade and was marketed by Monrovia Nursery under the trademark name "Razzleberri" - this name more recently appears to be associated with the cultivar 'Monraz'. It is an exceptionally nice plant that was initially listed as growing to 6 feet tall to 4-5 ft. wide but it will exceed these dimensions and our 20 year old plant is now trained up as a small 12 foot tall tree in our test garden where it is adjacent to a similar age 7 foot tall by 12 feet wide ''Hines Purpleleaf'. The foliage of 'Blush' emerges a rose-red then turns to a medium green. In our coastal climate, where this plant is always putting on new leaves, this makes for a multi-colored effect and as there are always some green tinged leaves present on this plant, it is more useful in a natural setting than other red leafed forms. The rose-pink flowers are lighter in color and larger than 'Hines Purpleleaf'.
Loropetalum chinense var. rubrum 'Burgundy'
The new foliage on this evergreen shrub emerges reddish-purple, and then it matures to purple-green. In the fall, the foliage will again change colors to a brilliant red. The pink flowers bloom intermittently throughout the year. This cultivar grows to about 6-10 feet tall and as wide. It has the same growing requirements as other Loropetalum varieties, and is hardy to about 15 degrees F. We have found that Loropetalum can go semi-deciduous in cold weather. This may be a synonym for a plant called Loropetalum chinense var. rubrum 'Sizzling Pink'. We no longer grow this cultivar.
Loropetalum chinense var. rubrum 'Hines Purpleleaf'
This plant is a very attractive cultivar retains good dark foliage color year round. Hines nursery describes it as a "rounded evergreen shrub that has gracefully arching branches similar to 'Bridal Wreath' Spirea". Mature size is 6-8 feet tall with a similar spread but as we note above in our comparison with 'Blush', this plant will grow wider than this. The leaves, with a slight undulation through their length, emerge a rosy red and age to a dark bronze. The flowers, with 4 thin dark rose colored petals are clustered at the branch tips - flowers are smaller and darker than the cultivar 'Blush' and the plant grows wider thatn tall for us in our garden.
Loropetalum chinense var. rubrum 'Purple Majesty'
A rounded, evergreen shrub with graceful, arching branches to 6-8 ft. tall with bright fuchsia, fringe flowers appearing in masses in spring and then throughout the year. New growth is a dark burgundy, ultimately maturing to a brilliant purple. Can be used in a variety of ways - in mass plantings as a hedge; as a specimen tree or as a patio tree. Hardy to 15-20° F. This plant is very similar to 'Hines Purpleleaf' and in fact the differences are difficult to state.
Loropetalum chinense var. rubrum 'Raspberry Fringe'
A compact evergreen shrub with bronze-red new growth, with age the leaves turn olive-green. The pink flowers bloom through out the year, peaking in April. It will grow 4-6 feet high and as wide. May just be another name for Loropetalum chinense var. rubrum 'Blush'. We no longer grow this cultivar.
Loropetalum chinense 'Ruby'
A compact, rounded evergreen shrub with shiny, ruby red young leaves. Pink, fringe flowers that bloom year round. 3-5 ft. tall. Sun or dappled shade. 15-20° F. Leaves are more rounded and undulating than other Loropetalum and is also among the smallest of the cultivars. Unfortunately this cultivar never has performed well for us in our nursery production. We no longer grow this cultivar.
The name Loropetalum is derived from the Greek words loron, a strap, and petalon, a leaf or petal in reference to the narrow flower petals. Various cultivar names have caused some confusion as to the identity of a plant purchased. It is always difficult when a plant cultivar name is listed with a second trademark name (TM) added on. This has to do with laws governing trademarks and plant cultivar names (you can't trademark a cultivar name) and is a practice that nurseries use to discourage others from growing a particular plant; more often than not, it just leads to consumer confusion. If a nursery legitimately owns the rights to a plant, it will have a patent number or a patent pending on the plant. Trademarks, on the other hand are just names that are registered, not a product. Most people will end up calling the plants by their catchy trademark names, rather then by the cultivar names. They should know also know the legitimate plant names used by nurseries growing these plants. These valid cultivar names are the ones inside the single quotation marks. If a plant has a valid Plant Patent the patent number must be displayed on a tag at the time of resale and if the patented plant has been reproduced by a nursery it must receive the rights to do this from the indivdual who holds the patent rights.
Descriptive information for plants not in cultivation at San Marcos Growers is from "A Guide to the Pink-flowered Loropetalums" by Michael Dirr in Nursery Management & Production
- April 1995