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On Gardening: This loropetalum will make you a daydream believer

Norman Winter, Tribune News Service on

Published in Gardening News

Purple Daydream will capture your heart and probably make you forget all other varieties of loropetalum. I'm growing it with October Magic orchid camellias, Autumn Jewel azaleas and Gold Mound chamaecyapris and its graceful and elegant habit just screams "look at me."

Purple Daydream reaches about 3-feet tall with a slightly pendulous spread to 3- to 4-feet wide. The deep purple foliage is ever present and, of course, loads up with a bounty of iridescent purple flowers in the spring repeating throughout the year.

I remember 18-years ago as a horticulturist with Mississippi State University where we selected Burgundy as a Mississippi Medallion Award Winner. While this variety was superior at the time it longed to reach 12-feet in height.

While I was at the Coastal Georgia Botanical Garden in Savannah, I also fell head-over-heels for Purple Diamond loropetalum that is semi-dwarf pushing to 5-feet. Whether it was flanking a bridge or reflecting at the Water Garden it was a show stopper. Dark purple foliage and hot pink flowers demanded visitors get out their cameras.

Consequently, when Red Diamond hit the market I had to have it for my own landscape. It will reach a little taller pushing to 6-feet but has darker leaves and what I might call hot lipstick red flowers. It will electrify the garden.

Botanically speaking they are all known as loropetalum chinense with a lot of gardeners knowing them as Chinese fringe flower. These selections are all part of the Southern Living Plant Collection and are really what gardeners and landscaper want versus those that reach skyscraper status. It was always hilarious to see visitors faces when they saw a burgundy loropetalum the size of a tall redbud at the gardens.

If you need a selection even shorter or for an ornate container, then Purple Pixie is the choice for you. To be honest, if it never bloomed, I would still love it for its habit and texture. It is remarkable however in a large European style container where its dark purple foliage tumbles over the edge. It reaches about 2-feet in height with a spread of 4-feet. So, while in a container you may want to do a little tip pruning rest assured in the landscape it is a superb groundcover.

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All of these are cold-hardy from zones 7-10, meaning they can take zero. Those of you plagued by deer will be delighted to know these are not on the menu. No matter what loropetalum you choose, they perform best in full sun but can tolerate partial shade. Plant them in well-drained, organic-rich beds that are slightly acidic. I like to emphasize the part about planting in beds. When planting loropetalums, or any other shrub, put them in a well-prepared bed instead of sticking them in a patch of turf. Like we suggest with azaleas, plant then high, -1 to -2 inches above the soil surface.

In the spring landscape consider planting them with white blooming trees like Yoshino cherries, or dogwoods and with informal drifts of daffodils. Obviously, they would be great in informal clusters with white, purple or pink azaleas. I love them with yellow to gold shrubs like Sunshine Ligustrum and Gold Mound chamaecyparis. You are the artist, let your imagination run wild.

(Norman Winter, horticulturist, garden speaker and author of, "Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South" and "Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden." Follow him on Facebook @NormanWinterTheGardenGuy.)

(c)2019 Norman Winter

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