How fast does Loropetalum grow?


loropetalum chinense

The word Loron in Greek means a strap and the meaning of petalon is a petal. It is from these two Greek words that this plant gets its name. The Loropetalum plant has gorgeous but typical four-petal flowers. The petals of the flower are long and thin like straps, and a bunch of these flowers bloom together to give a very pleasing appearance. And hence the name Loropetalum.

Loropetalum is a native of China, Japan and the Himalayan range. But because of its beautiful and pleasing leaves and flowers, now, it is planted throughout the world.  Since it is a hardy and low maintenance plant, it is prevalent in forming hedges and also for landscaping.

The growing speed of Loropetalum

Loropetalum behaves very differently when planted on the ground than in a pot. Their growth rate is medium to fast. They reach their full height pretty soon and have a good width also.

They usually grow about 1 -2 feet in a year. But some species can rise more than 2 feet in a year. Because of their reasonably good growth rate, they get usually planted in places, where you need to have privacy, like hedges.

A full-grown Loropetalum reaches a height of 12 -15 feet, with its broad leaves and strap-shaped flowers. Also, it presents itself as an appealing option for landscaping.

The dwarf varieties of the Loropetulum have a growth rate of one to six inches in a year. These are very suitable to be planted in pots and usually kept on window sills or balconies, in and around the houses.  For example the ‘Snow Muffin’ which grows to a height of 2 feet or the Snow Dance, which also has a height of just 2 feet.

Since different varieties have different growth rates, when you buy a Loropetalum plant, it would be advisable to get information on the total height, width and growth rate of the plant. That will help you decide on the place to plant the tree. It will also help you determine whether the tree growth is healthy and is as expected. The “Blush” variety of Loropetalum grows around one foot per year, while the Purple Diamond may grow 2 -3 feet/year.

What is the smallest Loropetalum?

The original Loropetalum Chinense is a huge plant that is very suitable for landscaping or making hedges. But the vast size prevents its planting for ornamental purpose in the pots.

The beautiful and stunning Loropetalum motivated the development of cultivars. The horticulturist creates cultivars from the main species. They used horticulture techniques to develop the plant with essential features. It is possible to reduce the height of the plant, spread control, or to make shrub hardier by the scientific techniques.  Unlike the original species propagation by seeds is difficult in case of cultivars. You have to get the sapling from the nursery.

The smallest of the Loropetalum is a cultivar, named ‘Burgundy Bill Wallace’. It attains the height of about 1 foot, but it has got an excellent overflowing spread. It can go up to 4 feet wide because of its creeping habit. It is very suitable to be planted indoors (where sunlight reaches. It needs plenty of  sun).

purple pixie dwarf
Purple Pixie Dwarf

Another cultivar variety, the Purple Pixie Dwarf is also an equally small variety of the Loropetalum. It has a height of anywhere between 8 inches to 18 inches.

What is the tallest Loropetalum?

loropetalum chinense
The tallest loropetalum is loropetalum chinense

Loropetalum Chinense, the original Chinese fringe flower shrub is the tallest of all Loropetalum. This tree is magnificent to look at with its bright and densely populated flowers. But the size was too big for the shrub to be planted anywhere except the hedges.

Cultivars and hybrids got developed to adapt the Loropetalum into ornamental and decorative plants of smaller sizes. These varieties are specifically to plant in gardens and pots.

Can Loropetalum grow in full sun?

loropetalum chinense

Ideally, Loropetalum trees grow best in the planting zones 7 to 10. It is quite evergreen in zones 9 and 10. The Chinese Fringe Flower tree desires full sun. Do not plant them in shady areas. They grow and bloom well only in good sunlight. Partial shade is tolerable if full sun locations are not available. Full sunlight brings the best of colours in the leaves and the flowers.

The leaves are generally, olive, bronze, burgundy or fiery red. The flowers may be white, cream, pink or red. The colour of the foliage and the bloom depends on the type and variety of the Loropetulum.

However, during the scorching summer days, you should try to provide shade to it at least during the hottest hours of the day.                    

If you can protect it from the cold winter winds during peak winter, it will boost the flowering capability of the tree. Though it is not advisable, but if you plan to grow it in colder than zone 7 areas, apply garden mulch. It reduces the effect of the cold on the roots and the trees.

Do Loropetalum lose their leaves in winter?

Generally, The Loropetalum trees are multi-stemmed with broad leaves. These are of evergreen variety, which means they do not shed leaves all at once at one time of the year. It flowers from mid-spring from February to April. Sporadic blooms are also possible in November and December.

However, at times, the tree may lose some old and ripe leaves throughout the year. During the cold season, in some cases, Loropetalum trees may shed substantial leaves.  This happens when you transplant the tree from a warmer zone to a colder one. The tree takes some time to acclimatise to the cold weather.

So if your tree has come from some warm zone, do not worry if it sheds leaves in the winter. But if it shed leaves the subsequent winter also, that means the tree has not acclimatised yet, and every winter leaves will fall. However, this shedding of leaves will not harm the Loropetalum tree. It just starts behaving like a deciduous plant. It is the defence mechanism of the plant to protect itself from the extreme cold, which it has not experienced before.

Hence whenever you plan to get Loropetalum trees, get it from the same zone or a colder zone than yours. It will help the plant bear the winter without losing the leaves.

You can help your Loropetalum tree survive the winter, by watering them well in the autumn season (September through December). However, do not overwater or waterlog the tree. They cannot tolerate that, and the roots would rot to death. Ample water in autumn prepares the Loropetalum to see through the winter, without getting dehydrated or starved. It synthesises the required food and stores them for the winter season ahead.

Unlike the deciduous tree, which practically becomes dormant, the evergreen trees do not go dormant, but reduce the internal activity and conserve the life energy to see through the tough winter. It is essential to point out that the Loropetalum can survive winters only up to zone 7. It is not capable of surviving severely cold weather.

How far apart do you plant Loropetalum?

You may plant the Loropetalum as a protective hedge plant or for landscape. You can also have one or two of them in your garden or backyard as a standalone tree for its beautiful foliage and flowers.

In case of a standalone tree, there is no question of spacing. You can plant it at any convenient sunny location. But for the hedge, you require the adjacent trees close enough so that it becomes impenetrable. That will happen when the trees overlap each other tightly.

So, you will have to take into consideration the final mature width of the tree to decide the space between two trees. For example, let us assume you want to plant ‘Carolina Midnight’ in the hedge. This tree has a height of 10 -12 feet and the width goes up to 12 feet on maturity. That means on either side of the trunk it will spread 6 feet. So, a distance of 6 to 7 feet between adjacent trees is ideal. That will also cover 6 feet on either side, and there can be a reasonable overlap of the foliage of the neighbouring tree to form a dense and impregnable hedge.

However, in the case of ‘Darkfire’, the trees have to be spaced around 3 feet. Because the final width of the tree is 6 feet. According to a simple thumb rule, the space between the trees should be around half the width of the tree. Keeping it that way ensures that the Loropetalum functions as a hedge, even before it attains its maximum width. On achieving the maximum width, it becomes dense and robust hedge.

For landscaping, the distance between two adjacent trees should be equal to the width of the tree. That way, the trees will just touch each other and will make a beautiful landscape.

So, it is only after you decide which variety of Loropetalum to plant and knowing its final dimension, the space between the trees can be determined.

As you decide to plant the tree in rows, ensure that you do not plant them closer than necessary. Very closely planted trees restrict the incident sunlight on one another. They also rub against each other vigorously and damage the branches and leaves.

How deep are Loropetalum roots?

I am not an expert on the subject, but based on the research, I found that the Loropetalum roots do not go very deep in the ground. It has a shallow root system and spreads in all directions.

The spread of the roots is roughly equivalent to the width of the tree. The mulching mixture has to spread to cover the area of ground about the roots. It ensures moisture retention by the soil. Remember that waterlogging should not happen because the roots of the Loropetalum rot in stagnant water. Another advantage of the mulch is that it helps protect the roots from the intense cold.

Since the roots are not deep, it does not require much digging while transplanting the plant.

When should I prune my Loropetalum?

The beauty of the Loropetalum tree is in its flowers. It has very unique and brightly coloured flowers. The prime blooming season of the Loropetalum is from the month of February to April.

Pruning should be done immediately after the end of the flowering season. That way, we do not disturb the beautiful sight of the full-bloomed flowers. However, do not prune later than mid-June. By that time the Loropetulam tree starts to set the buds for the next season. So, if you prune the tree very late, you might end up destroying all the buds. And next year there will be no flowers on the tree.

In case you forgot or missed pruning the tree in good time, skip the pruning for the year. You can prune them in time the next year. Loropetalum is all about colours and beautiful flowers.  Loropetalum plant, without its lovely flower, would be an awful sight.

So the timing of the pruning is crucial. You should adjust it in such a way, that the current flowering and the future bloom are safeguarded.

The months may differ a little depending on the location of the tree. But the logic of timing remains the same.

How (much) do you prune a Loropetalum bush?    

The Loropetalum is a well-behaved tree and has excellent shape naturally. The need to prune the Loropetalum may arise if it is planted as a hedge.  In that case, you need to prune the bush to the desired height and thickness. It would help to prune the bush to half its height, or at least a third should get removed. Because in the coming spring the bush will again grow back fast. Essentially prune the Loropetalum to a height lesser than the height of the hedge that you desire.

The other reason to prune the tree is to remove the dead and damaged branches. Though ideally, it is best to remove the damaged branches as soon as possible, if not done earlier for some reasons, it can be done now. In that case, remove only the damaged portion of the tree and leave the rest, if it is not a problem. You can, of course, prune it if it has overgrown your window or obstructs the view or air in any way. In any case, avoid over-enthusiastic pruning of Loropetalum as it may destroy its original shape. As you prune the tree, remember to maintain the general shape and flow of the tree. The shape should not look unnatural or awkward. Step back from time to time to check the general shape.

Bigger Loropetalum, above the height of 6 feet, can be pruned to the shape of a tree. This style of pruning is also popularly known as ‘Limbing’. Look at the tree and decide whether you want a multi-trunk or a single trunk tree. If you cut any trunk, ensure that it does not spoil the shape of the tree too much. Remove the shallow branches to give it a form of a tree. Step back and look at the tree very often to ensure that overcutting of the tree does not happen.

Pruning for bonsai can also be one of the reasons. Loropetalum makes beautiful bonsai because of its vibrant colours.

Manual pruners are good enough to prune the Loropetalum. However, if you need to cut one of the trunks, the mechanised shear would be better.

Is Loropetalum poisonous to dogs?

The Loropetalum tree is not listed as a toxic plant to animals in any of the lists published in the USA. But that may be because it is not a native plant. The list generally contains details and information of all native plants. So based on the list, one cannot judge whether the plant is toxic to dogs or not.

Besides, the Loropetalum tree has traces of Tannin as it belongs to the witch Hazel family. Tannin is a naturally occurring plant-based polyphenol. The ingestion of Tannin in substantial quantities has a negative effect on dogs and other animals. It affects their food intake and digestion. It also hampers the reproductive system.

But the tannin present in the Loropetalum trees is in a minimal quantity. Unless the dog eats a lot of the plant, the Tannin will not affect it in any way. So, that is why the Loropetalum does not pose any danger to the dogs. There are instances where the pet dog regularly eats the Loropetalum fresh leaves and loves it. But the Tannin is a matter of concern.  And hence for the sake of safety, keep your dog away from feeding on the Loropetalum tree.

Just in case, your dog eats a Loropetalum plant and shows signs of sickness, it is best to consult a veterinary doctor immediately. Some dogs may also exhibit allergic reactions to Loropetalum.

The Loropetalum or the Chinese Fringe Flower plants, as it is popularly known, are very beautiful and useful too. With just a little care and maintenance, it lends striking beauty to the landscape or the house.

It is a robust species and does not break easily. Hence it is the right choice for making a hedge for its beauty and strength. Neither does it have thorns, which could have otherwise harmed the animals. It is a non-toxic plant and usually compatible with most of the animals, including dogs.

Along with small cultivars are very suitable for ornamental and decorative purposes inside the house. The evergreen foliage and the unique flowing flowers are captivating.

Lindsey Glenn

I've been learning about gardening since 2015, helping friends and family to grow their trees. I am passionate about trees and love sharing everything I learn about them.

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