What is Loropetalum?

Alex Tree

Loropetalum is a plant genus containing three species that belong to Hamamelidaceae, the witch hazel family. The name Loropetalum is derived from the Greek words loron and petalon, which roughly translates to strap leaf. These plants are native to Japan, China, and southeast Asia, but also grow in other parts of the world. Some species are evergreen flowering shrubs, while others are small flowering trees.

Loropetalum plants are native to Japan, China, and southeast Asia.
Loropetalum plants are native to Japan, China, and southeast Asia.

This genus includes the species Loropetalum chinense, Loropetalum lanceum, and Loropetalum subcordatum. Commonly called the Chinese fringe flower, L. chinense has white flowers, but its bubrum variety has flowers with varying shades of pink. L. chinense grows up to a height of 15 feet (4.5 m). L. subcordatum and L. lanceum have white flowers and grow up to 45 feet (about 13 m) tall.

These shrubs and small trees typically bloom heavily with differently colored flowers during early spring, but they may also bloom sporadically throughout the year. Their flowers have four to six petals that are 0.4 to 1 inch (1 to 2.5 cm) long and are usually grouped together with three or more blooms. They usually last for three weeks from the time that they bloom. The ovate leaves of these plants are 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 cm) long, 1 inch (2.5 cm) wide, and alternately arranged along their stems. Typical white-flowered varieties of Loropetalum plants have green leaves, while some pink-flowered cultivars have deep maroon leaves.

Loropetalum plants are often used as landscaping plants, with popular cultivars having flowers in a variety of colors, such as magenta, purple, or white with red streaks. These arched-branch plants should be given plenty of room to grow, as they can reach up to 45 feet (about 13 m) tall with a spread of up to 12 feet (3.7 m). They do not need pruning to induce flowers or better growth but can be pruned for decorative purposes.

Propagation can be done via seeds that are taken from their woody capsules or cuttings taken during midsummer. The plants may also be propagated by layering the lower limbs by pinning them to the ground. Rooted limbs can then be removed for replanting during the next season. Seedlings may appear as under-established shrubs and can be potted or planted. These plants prefer moist, well-drained, slightly acidic soil with an organic layer to keep in moisture. They thrive in partial shade or full sun.

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