Thursday, March 27, 2014

Loropetalum: 'Laura Pedlum' in Bloom

Loropetalum is one of the most searched terms my blog receives, often searched as Laura Pedlum. The green form with white fringes of this shrub were brought to the US as long ago as 1880. It never caught on as a particularly desirable shrub. About 1989, pink forms of Loropetalum chinensis were brought in and were immediately a hit.

Miss Billie gave me seedlings from under her Loropetalums ten years ago. 'The ones with green leaves have white flowers,' she said. I ended up with only one white, placed to anchor the corner of the white bed around the pumphouse.
I never call it by common name, 'Fringe Tree'
so as not to confuse with Chionanthus retusus
or American native Chionanthus virginicus.
I counted more than ten cultivars for sale by vendors, only two white, a standard and a dwarf.
Colors range from near red to a pale pink. Dr. Dirr comments that some of the cultivar names are the same plant.

Loropetalum plays well with the pink and fuchsia blooms of our usual Spring bloomers: deciduous Magnolias, Azaleas, Redbuds

I can see these two from my kitchen window, different colors
and a slightly different growth habit.
When Loropetalums were first popular in the early 1990s, it was not really know how large they would grow. Vendors are selling some 'dwarf' cultivars  -- none of my seedlings turned out dwarf. The two above are smaller than most of the rest, but still growing. I suspect their smaller size has to do with their location unprotected from north winds, in open sun and rather poor soil.

New growth tends to be russet red on pinker flowered cultivars, a purple-red on the darker ones. Old leaves turn orange or red before falling off. The white form's old leaves turn yellow.
Foliage is darker in shade. Loropetalum roots are red, too.

I see this group of 3 tree-form Loropetalums from my kitchen window.

Another group of three with white in the distance.

Loropetalums make good companions for a tall tree-form hedge
when planted with Crape Myrtles.
  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 7A - 10A
  • Mature Height: 6 to 12 ft   -- this is the opinion of Extension sources, some of mine are taller.
  • Mature Spread: 10 to 15 ft 

  • This plant has not been established as a non-native threat in the twenty plus years since it hit the nursery trade as a big seller. It does seed about occasionally in rich garden soil.

    Around town, I see commercial landscape plantings where Loropetalums planted after 2000 were lovely for several years, now pruned into flying saucers, oversized pillboxes and other contorted shapes. In an effort to keep them contained the graceful habit is lost and many of the blooms.

    I almost forgot to mention that Loropetalums bloom much earlier than Azaleas and the show goes on until May, a long bloom season followed by sporadic bloom through the summer and another minor show about August, lasting until the first hard freeze. 

    Unless you find a guaranteed dwarf cultivar, I would just give them room and stand back. Definitely not a foundation plant, Loropetalums are one of the most colorful shrubs I grow.


    1. WOW, what beauties. Mine is a small shrub, maybe a year or so old. Your place is really wonderful and what a joy it must be to walk around there enjoying it all.


    2. What a lovely view you have outside your window. So many flowering bushes already. I love the bright fushia and reds. I am starving for color. :)

    3. Interesting post. I am not familiar with loropetalums, because they don't grow in this zone. They are very pretty.

    4. What brilliant colour for this time of year. You certainly have the space to let these beautiful shrubs mature without any need for pruning.

    5. I live just north of Atlanta and several neighbors have loropetalums - one as a foundation anchor and another on the side of the house where the windows are higher. I stole a few cuttings from the larger redder plants. They are in full sun and going crazy. I hope to be able to enjoy some sprigs by spring. I places in front and in back that I think will work - in back they would be under deciduous oaks, but in front they will get a lot of sun till after 3 pm.


    I look forward to comments and questions and lively discussion of gardening and related ideas.