Chinese fringe plant may refer to Chinese fringe flower (Loropetalum chinense) or Chinese fringe tree (Chionanthus retusus). Both are white-flowered, fragrant shrubs native to east Asia, though Chinese fringe flower is evergreen and grows up to 12 feet tall and Chinese fringe tree is deciduous and grows up to 20 feet tall. Pink-flowered Chinese fringe flower varieties (L. chinense var. rubrum) offer burgundy or purple leaves with pink to red blooms. Though these plants are similar in appearance, their care requirements vary.
Plant Where Hardy
Chinese fringe flower is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 7 to 10. In USDA zone 7, Chinese fringe flower should be grown in a location with some protection from cold winter winds. A 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch, applied in the fall before frosts strike, will help the plant to survive the winter. Chinese fringe tree is more cold hardy, growing well in USDA zones 5 to 9. Both plants will grow in full sunlight to partial shade, though flowering is best in sunnier sites.
Use Well-Draining Soil
Both plants require well-draining soil. To increase drainage and fertility in the soil, mix 2 to 3 inches of organic matter, such as leaf compost or peat moss, into the top 6 to 8 inches of soil. This is especially important for Chinese fringe flower, which is more susceptible to root rot in poorly draining soils, and may develop chlorosis, an unattractive yellowing of the leaves, in alkaline soils. Once established, Chinese fringe flower is notably drought tolerant. Chinese fringe tree however will not tolerate long periods with dry soil. Both plants will produce their best growth if irrigated regularly to keep the soil moist, but not water logged or flooded. Applying a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch will help to retain moisture and suppress competitive weeds, though ensure mulch doesn't touch the base of the plant.
Fertilize to Promote Growth
Fertilize Chinese fringe flower in mid-spring and early summer with about 1 to 2 cups of a 10-6-4 or 10-10-10 slow-release fertilizer. Use double the amount of fertilizer for Chinese fringe tree, about 2 to 4 cups, following the same schedule -- but always follow label directions. Water well afterwards to disperse fertilizer into the soil, taking care not to splash fertilizer onto the plant. Store unused fertilizer in a secure location away from children and pets.
Monitor Foliage for Problems
Check the foliage of both plants for pests and diseases. Both plants may attract tiny sap-sucking insects known as mites, while Chinese fringe tree may also attract scale insects and diseases such as powdery mildew and leaf spots. Treat pests and diseases with horticultural oil. In the summer, mix 2 to 5 tablespoons per 1 gallon of water and spray evenly over the tops and bottoms of leaves until wet, using a hose end or handheld sprayer. Store unused oil out of direct sunlight. Do not store with food products.
Either plant may be pruned as needed to remove dead, broken or diseased growth. Disinfect pruning equipment afterwards by soaking tools for 5 minutes in a solution that is equal parts rubbing alcohol and water. Rinse with water and air dry.
- Clemson Cooperative Extension: Loropetalum
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Loropetalum Chinense
- Floridata: Loropetalum Chinense
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Chionanthus Retusus
- University of Connecticut: Fertilization of Trees, Shrubs, Vines and Groundcovers
- Cornell University: Using Organic Matter in the Garden
- University of Florida Extension: Disinfecting Pruning Tools
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