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Loropetalum — a versatile garden shrub

Have you met Loropetalum chinense, better known as the Chinese fringe flower?

I first learned about it last fall when I was looking for something colorful and different to put in large pots on my front porch. I must confess, it was love at first sight.

Loropetalum is native to China and Japan where it can live for more than 100 years. It was brought to the United States in the mid-1800s for use as an exotic-looking ornamental in hedges, massed plantings and as a specimen plant. Unfortunately, with a mature height of 15 feet, the plant was too large for most home gardens.

Since then, hybridizers have created smaller, more colorful versions with purple to cranberry evergreen foliage and hot pink blooms. Crimson Fire, for example, only grows two to three feet tall and about three feet wide. It has a mounding habit and performs well in full to partial sun. Even more important, this variety is perfect for use in containers. It provides color, texture, and an element of surprise throughout all seasons and is especially attractive in winter.

Loropetalum is easy to grow. Just plant it in well-drained, slightly acidic soil in an area with at least six hours of sun every day. Pruning isn’t generally necessary, but it can be done in spring immediately after the plant has finished blooming. The timing is important because Loropetalum blooms on old wood. Fertilize annually with a slow release formulation. Relax and enjoy your new best friend in the garden. Loropetalum is even deer resistant.

DR. CYNTHIA WOOD is a master gardener. Her email address is cynthia. crewe23930@gmail.com.