Plant of the Month – December, 2008
‘Purple Pixie’ ™ Loropetalum
‘Purple Pixie’ ™ loropetalum keeps its plum-purple color through the summer. Photo by the author.
AT A GLANCE
Latin name: Loropetalum chinensis ‘Purple Pixie’ ™
Common name: Chinese fringe flower
Flowers: bright pink tassels
Foliage: deep plum purple
Mature height: 2’ x 4-5’ spread
Hardiness: USDA Zone 7 to 9
Exposure: full sun to light shade
Water usage: medium
Sources: local nurseries
Just a few years back, no one had ever heard of loropetalum or Chinese fringe flower, but now you can find the plant everywhere. This Chinese native has taken the Texas landscape by storm with its easy-to-grow nature and bright pink flowers on deep plum-purple foliage. I believe, though, that with the introduction of ‘Purple Pixie’ this plant will become even more popular.
The loropetalum varieties that have been on the market range in mature height from 6 feet to 15 feet, which isn’t a bad thing unless you’ve planted yours where you wanted a 3- to 4-foot-tall shrub. In that case, it is constant pruning for you. Personally, I abhor shrubs cut into boxes, lollipops, meatballs, or any unnatural shapes. If you have a super formal garden, then it’s OK, if done right and with boxwoods. (Apparently some gardeners have more time or money than I do to keep up that level of constant pruning.) The best advice is to take ultimate mature height into consideration when planting around your house, or you’ll suffer for it eventually. That brings me back to ‘Purple Pixie’ loropetalum — this plant doesn’t need to be hedged to stay compact! It grows to only 2 feet tall, and it will spread to 4 or 5 feet, just the perfect size for under windows!
This new spreading, dwarf loropetalum has intense purple foliage that doesn’t turn green during summer. In early spring the plants are covered in bright, fuchsia-pink tassels, and they occasionally have flowers during the summer and fall. The unique growth habit of this variety makes it immensely useful; unlike other varieties, this one grows across the ground like a groundcover. (Eventually, the plant will mound upwards to 2 feet and a final spread of 4 to 5 feet across.) I like using them as groundcovers, cascading over walls, or in large containers.
Like other loropetalum varieties, these will flower best in full sun, but grow fine in light or afternoon shade. They have no special soil requirements other than decent drainage. Fertilize them in late spring and mid-summer, and water regularly during summer. They will do wonderfully for you.
About the author: Jimmy Turner is the Director of Horticulture Research at the Dallas Arboretum. Visit www.dallasplanttrials.org for information on his trials. For more plant profiles by Jimmy, subscribe to Neil Sperry’s GARDENS Magazine.