Every spring, the plants out-do themselves, pushing the biggest, brightest, fresh green leaves out of the soil, vying for attention but nothing can compare to the electric magenta color of the petals of Chinese Fringe Flower, Loropetalum chinense var. 'Rubrum'.
The slender, spidery flowers are reminiscent of witch hazel flowers (Hamamellis sp.). In fact, 'Rubrum' is a member of the Hamamelidaceae family. Its name comes from the Greek words “loron” meaning strap and “petalon” meaning leaf or petal.
‘Rubrum’ is a shining beacon in the garden not only for the vibrant color of the petals but for the bright, reddish-purple of the new leaves. The leaves will darken to a deep purple if given a full sun location and are generally retained on the plant all year long. If you don’t care for pink flowers, Loropetalum chinense has the same strap-like petals but in white and sports dark green leaves.
Chinese Fringe Flower is a large multi-stemmed shrub, or small tree, growing to 20 ft. Many people find it useful for hedges and foundation plantings but I feel its purpose is better served as a specimen tree, part of a multi-plant border. It needs little pruning to maintain a beautiful shape. Clipping into hedges would be more maintenance and destroy the open canopy of this lovely tree.
Native to woodlands of China, SE Asia and Japan, 'Rubrum' is drought tolerant once established. It prefers a slightly acidic soil. Chlorosis, a condition, in which leaves produce insufficient chlorophyll, may occur in neutral to alkaline soils. This plant is hardy to -3 deg, USDA zones 7 – 10, but does best in zone 8 or more or in a protected spot in the garden for zone 7.