Ever been out on a stroll and smelled the most intoxicating scent? Look for a plant that possesses fringy-looking flowers. Chances are, you are within the vicinity of a Fringe Flower plant. This unassuming evergreen shrub was once a rarity in American gardens but has evolved into becoming a popular choice among bonsai enthusiasts for hedging, topiary, or just an effortlessly individual plant. Native to China, the Himalayas, and Japan, the Loropetalum chinense found its way to the U.S. back in 1880 but only became prominent after a hundred years.
Moreover, the Chinese Fringe Flower is related to the witch hazel family, making it grow as small as one foot to as high as 15 feet, and ranges from three to ten feet wide. But there have been records of this plant reaching 35 feet in its native state and managing to live up to a hundred years of age.
One of its most endearing and head-turning features is its color scheme. The L. chinense has a variety of flowers that comes in the color pink, red, and white during springtime. You can also choose to grow a plant with bronze, burgundy, fiery-red, or olive leaves. Originally, the only variety there is of the L. chinense had white flowers and green foliage. Then a Japanese nursery successfully bred the first-ever pink-blooming kind and donated it back in 1989 to the US National Arboretum. However, the ones commonly used for bonsais are the compact and rounded burgundy, copper, or red foliage.
Popular Forms of the Chinese Fringe Flower
Some people call the L. chinense the Chinese witch hazel because of its association with the Hamamelidaceae family. The ‘witch’ part actually seems fitting because the beauty of its colors is due to a chemical released during the sunlight called anthocyanin. This might as well be sorcery, don’t you think?
The Loropetalum genus derived its name from the Greek words for leaf and strap, which describes the bonsai’s narrow flower petals. Some of the most popular types of the Chinese Fringe Flower are:
- Loropetalum chinense Burgandy Bill Wallace: This variety only grows about a foot, and a deep red color distinguishes it from the others
- Loropetalum chinense Carolina Moonlight: After the initial spring bloom, this type generates white flowers
- Loropetalum chinense Emerald Snowdance: This one can grow up to four feet with white flowers also adorning its green leaves
- Loropetalum chinense Jaxx Hands Variegated (also known as Irodori): This cultivar stands out because of its bright pink flowers and multicolored foliage
- Loropetalum chinense Pizazz: You can distinguish this one for its unusual purple plum coloring
- Loropetalum chinense Rubrum: This type also possesses a burgundy color
How to Care for Your Chinese Fringe Flower Bonsai
The Loropetalum is fast-growing mostly because it is adaptable to almost any type of soil, light, and moisture conditions. Relatively speaking, it is easy to grow and will not demand too much maintenance from you. As such, it makes for a great addition to your garden with its versatility concerning both beauty and function unmatched. So, make sure to care for your Chinese Fringe Flower Bonsai by considering the following:
Position and Lighting
The optimal growing conditions for your Chinese Fringe Flower Bonsai are under USDA hardiness zones 7 to 9. And while it is sure to prosper in your outdoor garden, you can still grow it indoors. In fact, it can live up to a hundred years in the wild and can decorate your garden for about 20 years.
Moving on to lighting conditions, the ideal setup would include a full morning sun and some light shade later on. Exposing your bonsai to direct sun is proven to stimulate flowering and enhance color. And to give you a better grasp of this, the benchmark would be six full hours of sun. It is also better to grow your bonsai during spring or fall to avoid extreme temperatures. Consequently, exposure to the cold winter winds and frost is, of course, harmful.
When placed indoors, your Chinese Fringe will thrive in high light. As night temperature drops, though, it is ideal to place your bonsai on a windowsill or somewhere near one.
Temperature and Humidity Requirements
Winters can be brutal for your bonsai. So once nightly lows begin approaching the 40 degrees mark, it is high time for you to bring your bonsai inside.
It is also during colder months that you should place your bonsai in a shallow tray that is filled with gravel and water. Doing this will give your bonsai the extra moisture and counter the loss caused by your house’s heating system.
Your Chinese Fringe Flower bonsai will need organic soil capable of good drainage to enable proper growth. It also likes to be in acidic soil, and you can make it that way by adding at least one-third of peat moss to the soil. It also needs plenty of moisture, and the peat moss addition is a great way to keep the moisture content at a constant level.
Here’s a tip: your bonsai soil will consist of three parts manure, one part garden soil, and one part of one-to-two-millimeter pumice stones. Then you can add two parts of peat moss and finish the mixture by stirring it well.
Similar to any other bonsais, the watering of your Chinese Fringe Flower should never be neglected. But this one does not require much, just the average water needs. Be sure to water it regularly without overdoing it to keep the soil moist and your plant looking healthy. You can also add a humidity tray so that the roots will not sit in water where they can develop rot.
In addition, your bonsai tree does not favor the lime present in some tap water. Thus, it is recommended to use rainwater instead. During extreme heat and long dry spells, you must water your bonsai more frequently. Once established, though, your bonsai is relatively drought tolerant.
If you plant your Chinese Fringe Flower bonsai in the right soil (ideally a compost-rich one), it will require little to no fertilizer at all once they are established. But if you desire, you can still provide supplemental fertilizer with organic fish emulsion in the early spring.
Any general-purpose liquid fertilizer should also work fine and can be easily bought in most garden centers. Our suggestion would be to use only half of the recommended strength. Your bonsai will also benefit from foliar feeding with a water-soluble fertilizer that is applied as a spray every other month.
You can propagate Chinese Fringe Flower bonsais through softwood cuttings.
In the spring or summer, take a six-inch cutting of softwood growth. You will then have to remove the leaves around two to three inches from the bottom of each cutting. Ensure that there will be at least two to three leaves left on top. Use a rooting hormone to dip the bottom of the cuttings, then plant them in half perlite and half peat mixture.
Next, place your cuttings in a plastic bag large enough not to have contact with the cuttings. Make sure to prevent the soil from getting soggy but consistently moist. After four to six weeks, you should see the cuttings with developed roots. You have to hold off on planting them, though. Wait for the next growing season before doing so.
An ongoing debate on how well the Loropetalum species respond to pruning when kept as a bonsai has many bonsai enthusiasts scratching their heads. When taken as a normal garden plant, they are quite rigorous and can be pruned like a hedge. But as a bonsai, many sources suggest only regular to light pruning will give desirable shaping results. What is certain, though, is the best time for pruning. And that is in the late spring after your tree is done flowering. Any later than this will result in the loss of many flower buds, leading to fewer blooms in the following spring.
First off, estimate the size of your bonsai’s root ball when preparing to repot. If your plant is pot bound, gently tickle out the roots or slash out the root ball. Fill the container with soil and dig a hole that is three times the diameter of the root ball but shallower. You can then place the ball in the hole and keep the top even. Ensure that you clear any air pockets in the soil. And until your plant takes hold, you have to water it once or twice a week. You’re all set after this and will only need to repot every other year.
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Pests and Diseases
When you successfully grow your Chinese Fringe Flower into a thriving bonsai, it will likely resist most pests and diseases. Meanwhile, if your bonsai becomes too dry and sun-baked, you will have issues with aphids and spider mites. Other problems that you should be on the lookout for include:
- Root rot
- Bacteria gall (abnormal growths that sap essential nutrients)
- Anthracnose fungus (also known as blight)
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