Winter Storm Uri devastated Gulf Coast gardens in February of 2021. Immediately after the storm, it seemed like all was lost. But the silver lining of this event was finding out which plants survived the storm. Which brings us to Loropetalum.
It goes by a few other names including Chinese Fringe Flower, Chinese Witch Hazel and Pink Fringe Flower. But when looking for this specific plant, please make sure it says Loropetalum chinense var. ‘rubrum’ on the tag. That’s because there are some other variations out there that don’t work so well in our Gulf Coast environment.
My advice is that if it says “Razzleberry” in any way shape or form on the tag, avoid it at all possible costs. The Lorapetalum has been around for probably the last 30 years, but other growers came in right on the coattails of the true Lorapetalum’s success and tried to market various cousins under the name Razzleberry. They simply are not the same thing, and the degradation of those under the Razzleberry name proved they couldn’t handle much in terms of heat and humidity, much less any kind of freeze.
As you can see by the picture, the two most significant things that stand out are the maroon-ish colored leaves and the almost ‘day-glow’ pink colored blooms when it’s in bloom.
I’ve seen this plant kept as a small hedge and a medium hedge. I’ve even seen it left to its own devices growing randomly, but leggy in between other green-leafed plants like Wax Myrtle and Privets. There are also some dwarf varieties that you can keep to less than two feet and rounded.
For years, especially in my books and my on-site consulting business, I’ve recommended this plant as one of the ultimate “color-tiering” plants. What I mean by that is that you can give color to a landscape without having to always add annual flowers. The color is in the leaves, not just the flowers, so to speak. And in a 3-tier protocol, I can use Lorapetalum as a back-tier or even a middle-tier plant. Imagine having a dark, green-leafed plant behind it, and then a uniquely cream-colored or yellow-colored plant like Aztec Grass or Variegated Flax Lily (aka Dainella) in front of it.
Here are two ‘insider secrets’ when using Lorapetalum in your landscape beds; 1. they love azalea food, or what you might consider and acid-loving plant food, and 2. they must have really good drainage. If their roots stay too wet for too long, that’s the one true way to kill a Lorapetalum over time.