How to grow and care for loropetalum

Loropetalum leaves

What is loropetalum?

Loropetalum (Loropetalum chinense) is shrub. A relative newcomer to the gardening scene, it has a winning combination of showy evergreen foliage and bright coloured flowers. It’s highly ornamental – its crinkled oval leaves are borne in shades of red, pink, or purple, and its colourful, late winter flowers have a light fragrance.

Loropetalum chinense originates from the woodlands of China and Japan and is sometimes referred to as Chinese fringe flower. The flowers have slender, strap-like petals and are similar to those of witch hazel (Hamamelis) to which it’s related: Loropetalum belongs to the Hamamelidaceae family.


Where to grow loropetalum

Loropetalum growing as part of a mixed border
Loropetalum growing as part of a mixed border

Loropetalum is a small shrub with a compact height and spread of 1-1.2m, which makes it ideal for a large pot as well as a border. Grow loropetalum in partial shade, in a site sheltered from wind. Loropetalum is reliably hardy to around -5°C – in colder areas, grow in a pot and move under cover for the winter.


How to plant loropetalum

Loropetalum growing as part of a container display
Loropetalum growing as part of a container display

Loropetalum grows best in soil rich in organic matter that is moisture retentive but well drained, and ideally slightly acidic. If the ground needs improving, dig in compost before planting. To grow in a pot, use a loam-based potting compost such as John Innes no 3. Early spring is the best time to plant.

  1. Dig a hole slightly larger than the roots, take off the pot, and gently tease out any roots that are spiralling round the rootball
  2. Put the plant in the hole so that the top of the rootball at soil level. Backfill with soil, firm well, and water thoroughly to settle soil round the roots
  3. During dry spells in the first growing season, water 1-2 times a week

How to care for loropetalum

Loropetalum growing in the ground needs little care once established. An annual mulch of leaf mould, composted bark, or garden compost, keeps the soil in good condition.

Plants in pots must be watered so that the roots never dry out, though also take care not to over-water. Raise the pot just off the ground or stand on gravel so water drains freely. In cold areas, move into an unheated greenhouse or polytunnel for the winter.


How to propagate loropetalum

Dark purple leaves of Loropetalum 'Firedance'
Dark purple leaves of Loropetalum ‘Firedance’

Take semi-ripe cuttings in mid to late summer, from the current year’s growth that is just starting to become woody, and root in pots of well-drained compost in a heated propagator.

Like many evergreen shrubs, layering is the easiest way to propagate loropetalum, although this takes around a year.

  1. Select healthy, preferably fairly young shoots growing near the ground and peg down so part of the stem is in the ground
  2. Make a small wound on the underside, at the point of contact, to help stimulate rooting
  3. After a year or so, when roots have formed, cut off the rooted shoot from the parent plant, and plant in a pot to establish

How to prune loropetalum

No regular pruning is required. Trim any straggly shoots after flowering to maintain a bushy shape.

Growing loropetalum: pests and diseases

Loropetalum is trouble-free from pests and diseases. If planted in full sun, or a cold exposed site, the leaves may scorch.

Advice on buying lorapetalum

Spring is the best time to buy loropetalum, so plants establish in plenty of time before winter

Buy plants in 2 or 3 litre pots, as loropetalum is fairly slow growing

Ensure plants are healthy and don’t have any sign of frost damage, such as scorched leaves or dead shoot tips

Where to buy loropetalum

Varieties of loropetalum to grow

Loropetalum 'Fire Dance'
Loropetalum ‘Fire Dance’

Loropetalum chinense var. rubrum ‘Ever Red’ – evergreen purple-bronze foliage and raspberry-red spring blooms. Height x Spread: 2m x 2m

Loropetalum chinense var. rubrum ‘Fire Dance’ – evergreen purple-bronze foliage with spidery, fragrant spring blooms. H x S: 2m x 2m

Loropetalum ‘Ruby Snow’ – semi-evergreen bronze foliage with white flowers. H X S: 60cm x 50cm

 

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