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There is no plant success story quite like the one for loropetalumor (Chinese fringe flower).
The traditional plant with green leaves and creamy white flowers languished in relative obscurity for several hundred years.
Interest in the plant exploded in the 1980s with the introduction of selections with burgundy foliage and hot pink flowers. Now, only 20 years later, pink loropetalums are as common as Dale Earnhardt Jr. T-shirts at Talledaga.
These showy Chinese fringe flowers overwhelmed us a bit with their ultimate size. Folks back in the 1980s suggested cultivars like burgundy would only grow to 5-6 feet with a similar spread. The plants didn’t listen and grew twice that size.
Even newer selections like ruby often overgrow their place in the landscape. Now, Southern Living magazine has announced two new loropetalums will solve these size problems.
Purple pixie is the lowest-growing loropetalumyet. The literature suggests it will reach only 2 feet in height with a spread of 4-5 feet.
Having just planted one in my garden, I’d tend to agree with that assessment. This plant boasts some of the darkest purple foliage of any of the loropetalums and was only about 6-inches tall in a 3-gallon container. I planted it where it will cascade down the side of a stone retaining wall.
Use it almost like a ground cover or plant it in a container. For the price you’ll have to pay, place it front-and-center so you can really enjoy the dark foliage and pink flowers.
Southern Living has also released a taller selection called purple diamond.
This one is considered a medium grower reaching 4-5 feet with a similar spread. While the foliage isn’t quite as dark as purple pixie, it is very attractive. The pink flowers are pretty much what we’ve all come to expect from loropetalum.
Purple diamond fits well into foundation plantings offering evergreen foliage, interest, texture and, of course, the flowers.
Both purple pixie and purple siamond need the same conditions to thrive as other loropetalums. The ideal situation is bright light, moist, high organic matter soil on the acid side and a bit of protection from the worst of the drying wind.
Chinese fringe flower will do reasonably well in less-than-ideal conditions, but don’t waste your time in high pH soils or where you can’t provide some extra water during the first growing season.
Once the plants are well established, they’ll survive pretty well on normal rainfall.
One great thing about this witch hazel family plant is that our old buddies, the white-tailed deer, don’t particularly like to munch on the leaves.
Invariably, some of your friends from further north will see your new loropetalum and want to take one home. Unfortunately for them, this plant isn’t cold hardy past Zone 7.
Let them have their lilacs. We’ll just suffer through with our camellias, gardenias and loropetalums.