Loropetalum: A Southern Staple

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Loropetalums have become a staple in the Southern landscape since the purple leafed forms were introduced in the 1980’s. Their dark foliage contrasts well with other shrubs and the profuse fuchsia flowers make a great spring time show. They are fast growing, sun and drought tolerant and once established, cold tolerant as well.

A plethora of new cultivars has flooded the market in recent years, so some care should be taken to select the right plant for your garden. Mature plants can range in size from a foot to 15 feet or more. While Loropetalums can be pruned for sized and shape, trying to keep one that wishes it were 10 feet tall to a 3 foot height will only lead to frustration and gnashing of teeth. It is much better to select a plant whose mature height fits its space.

Leaf color ranges from green to darkest purple. Flowers are mostly pink, but white flowers also occur, usually on green leafed varieties. One of the newest cultivars is very exciting because it has dark purple foliage and crisp white flowers, creating a striking contrast.

Loropetalums are easy to plant and grow. They tolerate a wide range of soil conditions as long as it is not kept constantly wet. It can be planted in full sun to part shade. Deep shade will fade the color of the leaves and produce an open leggy plant. As with all newly installed plants, you should water it well every three of four days throughout its first summer season. Until it is well rooted, very cold weather will damage the leaves. Cold protection might be necessary in its first winter if the temperatures dip into the mid teens.

A loropetalum does not require pruning to keep its naturally bushy shape, but an occasional haircut encourages pretty new growth. Avoid pruning in the fall, however, as that new growth will be hurt by frost.

Many cultivars have been introduced over the years, some indistinguishable from each other. Here are some of the more outstanding selections.

Dark Fire: dark purple leaves retain their color event in hot summers.  We are happy to have our hands on this fantastic “new” plant! 6 feet by 6 feet. (Shown above)

Purple Pixie: Dark purple leaves with pink flowers; 1 foot by 3 feet with weeping form

Crimson Fire: Dark purple leaves with pink flowers; 2 feet by 2 feet with rounded form

Daruma: Purple leaves aging to blue green with pink flowers; 4 feet by 4 feet

Ruby Snow: Dark purple leaves with bright white flowers; 6 feet by 6 feet (shown left)

Emerald Snow: Green leaves with white flowers; 4 feet by 4 feet

Loropetalum Jazz Hands Variegated

Ever Red: Dark purple leaves with deep pink, almost red, flowers; 6 feet by 6 feet

Zhuzhou Fuchsia: Dark purple leaves with pink flowers; 10 feet by 10 feet or more

Jazz Hands Variegated: Stunning variegated foliage!  New growth splashed with pink and white.  Award-winner.  Pink Flowers. Grows 4-6 feet tall by 4 feet wide. (Shown right)