Loropetalum chinense, commonly known as Chinese fringe flower because of its airy blooms and Asian origins, is a member of the witchhazel family (Hamamelidaceae). Both full-size and dwarf cultivars of the shrub are winter-hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 7 through 10. In zones 9 and 10, they are reliably evergreen. A full-size Chinese fringe flower shrub quickly reaches 10 to 15 feet tall and wide, and a dwarf cultivar ranges from 1 to 5 feet tall and 3 to 5 feet wide.
Characteristics and Cultivation
Chinese fringe flower shrub has an open growth habit with long, weeping branches. So it must be shaped with care using hand pruners, not by shearing. The shrub needs full-sun or partial-sun exposure, doesn’t require special fertilizer and thrives in well-drained, slightly acidic soil. A mulch of well-rotted compost in spring provides all the nutrients the plant needs and helps keep its root zone cool. The shrub's flowers, which are clusters of tiny, ribbonlike petals, open from late winter through early spring. Although the most popular varieties of this arching shrub are valued for their burgundy foliage and pink flowers, green-leaved cultivars with white flowers also are available.
Dwarf Shrub Definition
In the plant nursery trade, the term “dwarf” refers to a slower-growing plant than its full-size version; a dwarf variety grows 1 to 6 inches per year. Although most people think a plant identified as "dwarf" means the plant will stay small, a dwarf version of a 150-foot-tall tree may grow to a height of 70 feet. Some full-size Chinese fringe flower shrubs are 35 feet tall, according to Clemson Cooperative Extension. The ultimate size of a dwarf Chinese fringe flower shrub also depends on cultural factors such as climate, soil makeup, water and fertilizer. Pruning probably will be needed to keep a dwarf variety small.
Purple-Leaved Dwarf Cultivars
The deep-purple, almost black leaves of the dwarf cultivar “Purple Diamond” (Loropetalum chinense variation rubrum), also known as “Shang-Hi Purple Diamond,” make it a favorite of gardeners. It keeps its color even in hot, summer weather when other cultivars fade. It grows 4 to 5 feet tall and wide with a compact, rounded form. “Purple Pixie” (Loropetalum chinense “Purple Pixie),” also known as “Shang-Lo Purple Pixie,” grows 1 to 2 feet tall and spreads up to 5 feet. It’s an option for a container or ground cover. The smallest cultivar, “Burgundy Bill Wallace,” (Loropetalum “Burgundy Bill Wallace”) grows 1 foot tall and 4 feet wide with a creeping habit, making it useful for cascading over a wall or spilling from a pot. All the purple-leaved cultivars have pink flowers.
White-Flowered Dwarf Cultivars
White flowers against green leaves are the hallmark of several dwarf cultivars of Chinese fringe flower shrubs. “Snowmound” (Loropetalum chinense “Snowmound”), also known as “Snow Muffin,” is a dense, arching shrub that develops into a mounded shape about 3 feet tall and wide. “Emerald Snow,” also known as “Shang-White,”(Loropetalum chinense “Emerald Snow” and Loropetalum chinense "Shang White), grows 3 to 4 feet tall and wide. “Carolina Moonlight” (Loropetalum chinense “Carolina Moonlight”) has a dense, compact form that is more wide than tall, reaching about 4 feet in height and spreading 5 feet wide.