How to Grow and Care for Chinese Fringe Flower Shrubs

Loropetalum chinense

Chinese fringe flower (Loropetalum chinense) has become a go-to shrub for southern gardeners in recent years, and for good reason.

In addition to its attractive deep red leaves, this fast-growing plant puts on a breathtaking springtime display of fringy pink or white flowers.

The plant — mostly with white blooms — didn’t have much of a presence in the United States until the mid ‘90s, when nurseries began marketing varieties with pink blooms. Now it is ubiquitous in much of the South.

Close up of a Chinese fringe flower in bloom showing pink clusters of honeysuckle like flowers.

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As indicated by the plant’s name, it is indigenous to China, Japan, and the Himalayas. Some call it Chinese witch hazel, for its membership in the Hamamelidaceae family.

Some cultivars are trimmed into bonsai.

A Top-Queried Plant

While I’ve been out working in the yard this spring, numerous neighbors have stopped and asked, “What is this beautiful pink tree?”

A row of L. Chinense are growing along a sidewalk. The pink and white ribbon like petals of the flowers are densely packed up and down the trees that bear them.
Photo by Gretchen Heber

Its gorgeous, frilly pink flowers are numerous and truly showstopping. It’s too bad they only last for a couple of weeks! But they do live on a while longer in a pretty pink carpet on the ground where they fall.

Emergent spring leaf growth is attractive, too — in hues of saturated red. At other times of the year, the leaves can range from a deep green to a deep plum, often with multiple colors on a single stem.

The flowers of the L. chinense have nearly all fallen to the ground. What is left on the small branches of the bush are large leaves that are green and waxy and smaller leaves that have taken on a deep red color that makes these beautiful to look at all summer long.
Photo by Gretchen Heber

It’s commonly regarded as hardy in zones 8-10, though some gardeners as far north as zone 7 have had luck with it.

Pink, White, Tall, Short: Varieties and Where to Buy

Looking for the best variety to plant in your backyard? Well, the choice all depends on what you’re looking for…

Pixies Garden offers ‘Ruby’ fringe flower plants, available via Amazon. The Ruby cultivar is appreciated by some because of its more compact size.

‘Ruby’ Chinese Fringe Flower

You’ll get a one-gallon potted plant that will produce a shrub that is 4 to 5 feet tall by 3 to 4 feet wide when mature.

‘Purple Majesty’ grows a bit taller, reaching 6 to 8 feet. You can find this variety from Bob Wells Nursery, available via Amazon.

Loropetalum ‘Purple Majesty’ Chinese Fringe

You’ll receive a two-gallon potted plant.

If you’d like a dwarf variety with white blossoms, check out ‘Jazz Hands’ from Proven Winners, also available via Amazon.

‘Jazz Hands’ Dwarf White Chinese Fringe Flower

You’ll get a plant in a 4-inch pot that will grow to be 1 to 3 feet tall.

‘Hillier Compacta’ is a spreading form that can be used as a ground cover. It has small white flowers.

Acidic or Not?

This shrub will do well in full sun or partial shade.

Like many plants, it prefers rich soil, but will tolerate clay. Mine are in whatever nasty builder dirt was in place after my house was built. Just be sure you place it in an area where the soil isn’t boggy.

The branches of an L. Chinense reach out over a tall, wooden fence separating the yards of neighbors. The tree bears bright pink, frilly flowers that give the Chinese fringes such a unique appearance.
Photo by Gretchen Heber

The literature will tell you this plant prefers acidic soil, but the soil in Central Texas is notoriously alkaline, and fringe flowers thrive all over the place here.

You can find seeds for Loropetalum chinense online, but if you want to get something with some heft in your landscape quickly, and you don’t need 100 shrubs, I recommend you purchase an established plant in a one-gallon bucket or larger.

To transplant, dig a hole about fifty percent wider than the root ball and about the same depth as the pot you’re moving it from.

Place the plant in the hole and backfill with the soil you removed to dig the hole. Water well. Need a little more detail? Check here for more on planting trees and shrubs.

Start Your Own

If you’re like my neighbor Louie, you can transplant a piece of driftwood and it will sprout. Luckily, propagating from fringe flower cuttings is much easier than trying to get something to grow from an old piece of driftwood.

The long, pink flower petals of a Chinese fringe are reaching out away from the green, drop shaped leaves of the plant.
Photo by Gretchen Heber

Here’s what you need to do:

1. Take a 6-inch cutting of new growth softwood, and remove the leaves along the bottom half of the stem.

2. Dip the end of the cutting into a rooting medium — 0.1 to 0.3% works well. Prepare a clean container with drainage holes and a half-and-half mixture of peat and perlite. Poke a hole in the dirt and insert the cutting.

3. Cover with a plastic dome or a plastic bag that doesn’t touch the cutting. Keep the soil moist, but not soggy. Place the container in indirect sunlight.

Your plant should have a nice set of roots in four to six weeks. Let the plant grow in its container until the next planting season, depending on your climate. Then transplant into the garden.

L. chinense plants are growing next to a fence with the long, narrow flowers densely packed together in a beautiful display of pink.
Photo by Gretchen Heber

One caveat: Now that we’ve told you all this, please be aware that some cultivars are patented and taking cuttings this way could be a violation of said patent. If you know what type of plant you have, you can look online to ascertain its legal status.

Tunnel of Carefree Love

Loropetalum is extremely drought tolerant. During the hot Texas summers, ours get no supplemental water. They often go weeks without water, in fact.

A Chinese witch hazel is growing with its bright, pink flowers making up the majority of the cover seen. The deep green leaves combined with that of the fringe petals put on a beautiful display for any yard.
Photo by Gretchen Heber

This plant is tolerant of pretty much any kind of pruning. Many gardeners prune them into shrubs and even hedges; others let them grow into a tree form.

When we built our house 15 years ago, the builder installed 2-foot-tall shrubs to meet HOA-mandated fence camouflage guidelines. In just a couple years, the plants had grown to overshadow the 6-foot fence. Now they’re about 15 feet tall, trimmed to arc over the sidewalk, and forming one half of a “tunnel” that the neighborhood children love.

We have to cut them back frequently and severely to keep them off the sidewalk, but the trees don’t mind at all. They just keep coming back.

The branches of Chinese fringe trees reach out over the sidewalk forming a half tunnel that a passerby can be seen skateboarding underneath. The bright pink flowers of the plants outnumber the leaves and can also be seen carpeting the ground below.
Photo by Gretchen Heber

I’ve never fertilized my fringies, but if yours look like they could use a little nutrition, apply a 16-4-8 mix before the spring growth spurt.

They do appreciate a layer of mulch as well.

Oh, the Gall…

Loropetalum has few serious pest or disease problems. However, root rot can be an issue, especially in poorly drained soils, so just make sure you put your plants in well-draining soil.

Four white blossoms of the Chinese fringe flower can be seen with a few pink varieties in the back. The petals of these plants are long and very narrow reaching out in all directions.
Photo by Gretchen Heber

You may see galls on the stems of these shrubs, and the presence of Pseudomonas savastanoi bacteria is to blame for these swellings. If you see them when you’re shopping, do not purchase the plant.

If you find them on established plants in your yard, cut the branch several inches above the gall, dispose of the prunings, and disinfect your pruners.

Little Effort, Many Returns

Easy-care and easy on the eye, this shrub/tree is a fast-growing and gorgeous addition to many gardens.

A Chinese fringe flower is growing alongside a rough, wooden fence. The plant has bright pink and narrow petals reaching out in all directions.
Photo by Gretchen Heber

Mine get no supplemental water, no fertilizer, no pest maintenance, and fairly brutal prunings. And yet, they reward with dense foliage and a dazzling spring display.

Show of hands: Who’s heard of Chinese fringe flower? Who has it growing in their garden? Southerners, are you inspired to try this pink beauty in your landscape?

Share your stories in the comments section below.

And if you’d like to learn about other drought resistant landscape shrubs, check out some of our other guides:

Photos by Gretchen Heber © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Product photos via Pixies Garden, Bob Wells Nursery, Proven Winners.

About Gretchen Heber

A former garden editor for a daily newspaper in Austin, Texas, Gretchen Heber goes through entirely too many pruners and garden gloves in a year’s time. She’s never met a succulent she didn’t like and gets really irritated every 3-4 years when Austin actually has a freeze cold enough to kill them. To Gretchen, nothing is more rewarding than a quick dash to the garden to pluck herbs to season the evening meal. And it’s definitely time for a happy dance when she’s able to beat the squirrels to the peaches, figs, or loquats.

18 thoughts on “How to Grow and Care for Chinese Fringe Flower Shrubs”

  1. I purchased one 15 years ago and was assured it was a dwarf. Ha! I have cut it to ground level and it keeps coming back. How big is root system. Could it be transplanted?

    I plan to make cuttings to eventually plant along my rear fence.

    Reply
    • LOL. Funny about the sizing issue! You should be able to transplant it without any issues. You might trim it back quite a bit before you do so it doesn’t get stressed in its new home, trying to supply nutrients to a giant plant.

      Reply
  2. I live in a northeast suburb of Greater Detroit MI, having moved here 1.5 years ago. I think we have an older Chinese Fringe Flower tree growing here, facing NE, but it always drops its leaves in the fall. It is in full bloom right now (June 4, 2019). We are zone 6.

    Reply
  3. My (variegated) Fringe-Flowers are now just green — no other color. Does that mean they’re not getting enough sun? I live in South Carolina.

    Reply
    • Hi Kathy! That indeed could be what’s happening. Plants whose leaves are supposed to be variegated… if they don’t get enough light, they’ll respond by producing all-green leaves in order to be able to make sufficient chlorophyll.

      Reply
  4. I love the half tunnel! I have discovered after moving into a new house a tiny one of these in one of the beds. I’m thinking of transplanting into a pot so I can enjoy it closer to the house. Do you think it might reach the maximum size of 1.5 m if given a large enough pot? I’d love to try making it curve with a similar effect next to an arched courtyard entry….

    Reply
    • Thanks for your kind words. We love the tunnel, too. Perhaps, if you give it a large enough pot, it will get tall.

      Reply
  5. I have a lovely “ruby” fringe flower in my garden in Sacramento, CA, where it gets cold and hot, and it does very well. Many gardeners have these around here and they are truly beautiful.

    Reply
    • Oh, interesting, Frances. I didn’t know they would grow in Sacramento. I’m so excited…mine are just getting ready to bloom!

      Reply
  6. What happens when they’re overwatered? We got a little one (from a nursery in Pflugerville a month or so ago) to bonsai, and my husband waters it everyday and it’s turned brown and crunchy. And can we prune the brown parts?

    Reply
    • Unfortunately it’s easy to kill our plants with too much attentive care! Since you mentioned bonsai, I assume this plant is growing in a container? Does the container have drainage holes, and soil that drains easily? Are you growing it indoors, or outside?

      Though frequent watering is tempting and container-grown plants can dry out more quickly than those grown in the ground, particularly if they’re growing outdoors in Texas or another location with a hot climate, I hope you’ll be able to get your husband to hold back a bit. Rather than watering every day, or even on a regular schedule, you should always pay attention to what your plant is telling you. Monitor the soil for moisture, and only water when it feels dry a few inches down. Fringe flower is extremely drought tolerant once established, and watering may only be required every couple of weeks, perhaps even less frequently during the winter.

      Root rot may be at play here. Though you might risk further stressing the plant, I would recommend removing it from its pot and taking a look at the roots. If significant portions have already rotted away, you’re probably not going to be able to revive this plant. If not, remove any damaged portions from the roots, and repot in soil that is not oversaturated, either by mixing the existing soil with fresh potting soil amended with something like perlite or coconut coir to improve drainage, or starting with fresh, well-draining soil. Be sure to plant in a pot with drainage holes, which will allow excess water to run out of the pot. Prune away the dead portions of the foliage, and hopefully it will spring back. As an alternative, if any portions of the plant are still healthy, you may be able to root cuttings and start new plants.

      Reply
  7. I live in the Central Valley California, we have a row of these growing on the north side of our driveway. They are huge, probrably 12-25 feet tall and mostly branches on the bottom with lots of leaves and flowers on top but I’d like to prune them severely down and maybe have more of a bonsai look, so do you think that’s possible at this point or will I kill them if I do this?

    Reply
    • It sounds like your plants have begun to take on more of a tree form, based on your description. Unfortunately at this point, you’re going to have some difficulty turning them back into “bonsai-like” shrubs! Pruning back more than 1/3 of any shrub is generally not recommended, and for larger plants, this is often reduced to 1/4.

      Wait to prune until after they have finished flowering, and cut them back to remove dead growth, reduce their overall size, and maintain their shape. Keep in mind that these plants tend to regrow pretty quickly. If you really can’t stand their size, you might like to take some cuttings and start new plants.

      Reply
  8. Hello. I have a “fringie” that is about 5 yrs and 5 ft! You discussed transplanting it. So… cut it back 1/3rd after growing season? We are in TN and it blooms randomly, even in winters, which are short but cold. How much of a root system are we looking at and how much of it can one afford to lose? We have mostly clay soils. Will try cuttings in case we lose the main plant. Thanks, and love the arbor look!

    Reply
  9. Thank you Gretchen for the information about loropetalum. I’m in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia and I have just bought this plant. I’d never heard of it before the lady in the nursery suggested I try growing it.
    I hope to send you a picture of it when it becomes established.
    Roberta

    Reply

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