Broadleaf evergreens are excellent landscaping plants. Not only are they drought-tolerant, but they easily adapt to climate changes and still look beautiful year-round. Loropetalum chinense, or the Chinese fringe flower, is native to China, Japan, and the Himalayas. Its elegant, graceful foliage and frilly, fragrant flowers add color along borders, walkways, and patios and around hardscape elements. There are countless cultivars to choose from, with a range of leaf and bloom colors.
Chinese fringe-flower is at its highest visual impact when growing in clusters, especially when in full bloom. Some varieties grow upright, reaching 15 feet. Others tend to spread more as they grow, but dwarf cultivars can be planted closer together. Plant low-growing varieties on hillsides or slopes. Loropetalum is also an excellent container plant, perfect for entryways, patios, and porches. Choose a pot that’s six to eight inches larger than the diameter of the container you’re transferring it from to allow for growth. It needs ample amounts of sunlight for its blooms to reach their peak colors, however, so it isn't well-suited to indoor growing.
These plants aren’t fussy about soil types as a rule. Adding organic matter or compost to rich, well-drained soil seems to suit the loropetalum just fine. Container plants thrive in any quality potting soil. When planting in a garden or landscape, loropetalum prefers slightly acidic soils but doesn’t perform well in alkaline soils. The latter leads to chlorosis, a nutritional deficiency that turns the leaves yellow. Increase your soil's acidity by adding aluminum sulfate.
Loropetalum grows best with access to full morning sun and partial afternoon shade. However, this fairly hardy plant can also handle full sun. The evergreen flourishes in USDA hardiness zones 7 through 10 but won't fare as well in areas where the winter temperatures dip below 0 degrees. Protect loropetalum against cold winter winds that can damage or dry them out. Covering them with burlap or shrub wraps helps, especially when cold northers sneak up on you.
Although this plant is drought-resistant, it does require regular watering during its first growing season. Weekly or twice-weekly waterings are usually enough to give your loropetalum the moisture it needs to establish itself. This also allows the plant to better handle any cold snaps during the winter. Keep the soil for potted loropetalums moist, and water deeply once or twice each week. Potted plants are more susceptible to high winds, which causes the soil in their pots to dry out faster.
Loropetalum has no serious issues with pests, though spider mites and scale insects sometimes stop by. If your plant starts to drop leaves or they turn yellow, this could indicate a scale insect infestation. Scale insects thrive on plants under stress. Spider mites tend to show up during hot, dry summers. Prevent infestations by keeping your loropetalum watered, fed, and healthy.
These hardy shrubs aren’t generally susceptible to diseases. However, root rot, anthracnose, powdery mildew, and other issues can crop up if loropetalum is stressed, overwatered, or underwatered.
Loropetalum shrubs don’t require special care. Appluying a slow-release fertilizer once a year in the spring keeps them blooming and growing well. Some loropetalum varieties are fast growers, others aren’t. Prune those that are getting out of hand, but don’t overdo it. Pruning some varieties too much could prevent blooms in the spring and summer.
Create new plants from six-inch softwood cuttings. Remove all leaves from the bottom half of the cutting and dip the end into a rooting medium. Plant it in a mixture of half peat and half perlite. Make sure the container you plant the cutting in has adequate drainage. Cover the container with a plastic bag or dome and place where it will receive indirect sunlight. Keep the soil moist. In four to six weeks, your loropetalum cutting should develop roots.
Although the loropetalum isn’t toxic, it isn’t edible either. This plant is related to witch hazel and contains tannins which can cause stomach upset in pets should they ingest it. If you're a gardener who has visits from deer who like to nibble on your favorite plants, you won’t have that issue with loropetalum. However, the plant does attract pollinators like hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies. If you’re seeking an easy-to-grow option to accentuate other bloomers in your landscape, you can’t go wrong with loropetalum.
Dwarf varieties include Purple Daydream, which grows dark purple foliage and erupts with pink flower clusters in the spring. For hard-to-grow areas like slopes and hillsides, try Jazz Hands Mini or Purple Pixie, prolific growers that not only look beautiful but also help with erosion control. Each loropetalum variety can serve as a stand-alone focal point or grow alongside others to create a mass of color for your landscape.