Loropetalum, an evergreen shrub of Chinese origin with a lushly weeping character, comes in a vibrant range of foliage colors from a bright lime green to the deepest, darkest of purples. They are easy to grow, tolerate a wide range of soils and landscape conditions, and the ones with purple foliage add a vivid pop of color alongside traditional green foundation plants.
Yet sometimes things don’t go as planned, and your deliciously purple fringe flower may start to turn green. There are a few reasons for this, most, which can be addressed by working the soil or moving the plant to a more appropriate location. Read on to discover what to do if your purple Loropetalum – well – isn’t.
Too much shade
While Loropetalums are amenable to partial shade, the deep shade directly under a tree or on the north side of your home can be a little too dark for the plant to look its best. The purple foliage color is caused by anthocyanin, a pigment that is produced when the plant is in the sun. If you live in a mild coastal climate, give your Loropetalums a half-day of sun, whether in the morning or the afternoon. If you live in a hotter inland climate, morning sun is ideal to give your fringe flower enough time to soak up the sunshine and color up, without causing stress.
Too much intense heat
While it may sound strange that either too much shade or too much heat can cause the same problem, the pigment production in Loropetalum is inhibited by extreme heat, especially in many older varieties, which have not been bred to hold their purple color effectively. If you live in a climate where it gets very hot, plant your Loropetalum on the east side of your home where it will receive just a few hours of direct morning sun. Keep it shaded during the hottest parts of the afternoon, and it should recover from heat stress and color up again.
Soil is too alkaline
Fringe flowers are generally pretty relaxed about soil conditions, and can tolerate a variety of soil types. However, the wrong pH can make it hard for plants to take up the nutrients they need to put on new, healthy growth. Loropetalum varieties all prefer acidic soil with a pH between six and seven. If you do a soil test and find that your soil is alkaline, apply granular sulfur or cottonseed meal, amend the soil with sustainably sourced peat moss, or top dress with a layer of pine needles, whichever is most easily available to you.
Lack of nutrients
Another problem that can cause greening in fringe flowers is a lack of nutrients. Many older varieties of Loropetalum have the deepest purple color in their new growth, and the old foliage gradually becomes more green. If your Loropetalum is experiencing some kind of stress to where it hasn’t been growing actively, consider applying an organic all-purpose fertilizer to stimulate a gentle flush of new growth all over the shrub. The new growth will be a more vivid shade of purple than the older leaves.
Unfortunately, many older varieties of purple fringe flower weren’t bred to the same exacting standards they are today. Many are purple in spring when the new growth emerges, but gradually turn a dull bronze green as the season goes on.
Try these new varieties
If you are doing everything right for your Loropetalum and it’s still not staying purple, consider trying one of the newer varieties, which has been specifically bred to stay a gorgeously deep purple-black color all season long.
Purple Diamond® Semi-dwarf Loropetalum is a compact shrub to about 4 feet tall, and is so purple that when you transplant it, you may even notice the roots are tinted purple! Because it’s a more moderate grower than older varieties of Loropetalum, it’s easier to fit into your landscape without having to prune.
Purple Pixie® Dwarf Weeping Loropetalum is the only low-growing fringe flower out there, and it’s perfect for cascading down the side of a container or hiding a retaining wall. It reaches about 1 foot tall and 4 feet wide, and also makes a great groundcover in the garden.
Fringe flowers are a relatively trouble-free plant and provide a dramatic weeping form and color in the landscape. By choosing the right varieties, giving them just enough sunshine, and making sure your soil is in balance, you’ll have a long and happy relationship with these stylish, easy-care shrubs.