Red Diamond™ LoropetalumLoropetalum chinense var. rubrum 'Shang-Red'
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Loropetalum chinense var. rubrum 'Shang-Red'
Outdoor Growing zone
Full Sun, Partial Sun
The Red Diamond™ Loropetalum is an upright evergreen that grows between 4 and 6 feet tall, with dense growth. It looks exotic but it isn’t delicate at all, and it’s easy to grow. The foliage is colored all year round – red in spring and purple-red for the rest of the year. It flowers in early spring with the brightest and clearest red blooms of all the varieties of this plant. It is amazingly showy, and perfect for accents, specimens in borders, colorful hedges or in planter boxes in hot zones.
The Red Diamond™ Loropetalum grows well in all the warmest parts of the country. It grows in full sun, partial shade, and even in light full shade. Moist, rich, well-drained and slightly acidic soil is the ideal, but it is tough enough to grow in all ordinary garden conditions except flooded places and very alkaline soils. Pests, diseases and deer all leave it alone, and it doesn’t need trimming to stay bushy, but it won’t mind if you insist – do it in spring as the flowers fade.
Loropetalum, or Chinese fringe-flower, are for today what hydrangeas were 150 years ago – the hottest new thing in gardening. Since their first tentative arrival 25 years ago they have gone from a curiosity plant for specialists into the most desirable of shrubs. Not only that, there is an abundance of new varieties in a wide range of sizes, leaf colors and flowers, especially an expansion in color intensity. If you like vibrant, neon colors you will love Loropetalum. When it comes to size there are larger plants, and some very small, broad varieties, but not much in a ‘garden friendly’ medium size. That’s why we love the Red Diamond™ Loropetalum, which is just 6 feet tall when mature, with an upright, rounded form. Amazing choice for a shrub bed, a very hot hedge, and even in planter boxes in hot zones. The red leaves that are such a feature of most Loropetalum are always rich reds and purples, never turning green. Most of all, you simply won’t believe the incredible intensity and purity of the bright red flowers that smother it in spring – and they have that exotic and unique look that makes these plants such great garden shrubs. A true garden diamond indeed.
The Red Diamond™ Loropetalum is an evergreen shrub with a dense, twiggy form, growing between 4 and 6 feet tall and up to 5 feet across. It doesn’t need trimming to keep it dense and upright, it does it naturally, keeping branches close to the ground. It grows about 9 inches a year, and is bushy, so it just gets better and better with age, like a fine red wine. The reddish-brown bark on young stems is attractive, and becomes darker and starts to flake on older branches.
This unique shrub doesn’t look like it would be evergreen, as the leaves are soft and thin, but it is. It holds the leaves all winter, except in colder parts of zone 7, where some leaves will fall, thinning it out a little, but still pretty leafy. They are about 1½ inches long and ½ an inch wide, oval and neat, a little like an azalea leaf, with the same soft hairy feel, but thinner and more delicate. In spring, about the time flowers appear, the new leaves come out too, colored a gorgeous bright red. It looks magnificent and vibrant, from right across the garden – a real knockout. Older varieties tend to turn greenish in summer, but your Red Diamond™ Loropetalum won’t do that. The leaves darken to a deep purple-red, and stay that way until the following spring.
In hot zones it can be February when blooms appear, but March is more usual. The plant blooms profusely, carrying hundreds of flowers, in clusters of 6 to 8, on short stalks along the stems. Each flower has 4 strap-shaped petals twisting and curling – a pretty unique effect that we also see in witch-hazel shrubs, but almost nowhere else. The color is the brightest red ever seen on these plants – pure, clean, without any purple, and true lipstick scarlet. The impact is fantastic and these plants in bloom are truly captivating. Flowers last for several weeks, and you will often get some more during summer and early fall. Clusters of seed-pods follow, like tiny acorns, but these are curious, not really showy.
The moderate size, combined with density and upright growth make the Red Diamond™ Loropetalum incredibly versatile, finding a place everywhere in your garden. Grow it among evergreens around your house, perhaps near the front door, or plant it out in your shrub beds, in all garden styles, from Asian to woodland. It’s a great companion to azaleas and other partial-shade shrubs, or under deciduous trees. It makes a great planter-box shrub in zones 9 and 10, and a fabulous novel hedge, spacing plants about 3 feet apart. You can trim it or not, as you choose.
The Red Diamond™ Loropetalum has really found an ideal home in the Sunbelt, and through the southeast. It grows wonderfully in zones 8, 9 and 10. In zone 7 it should be planted in a sheltered spot, and allow for the fact that some leaves will fall in winter there, but otherwise it should do well.
Very light adaptable, the Red Diamond™ Loropetalum grows well in full sun, or with a few hours of shade each day, and also in light full shade, such as fence or wall shadow, or the light shade from some tall trees. Almost all well-drained soils work out well, but moist, rich and slightly acidic soils do give the best results. Use plenty of organic material as mulch, and mix a little into the backfill, if your soil is very sandy or full or clay. It develops good drought resistance once it has established, and despite its exotic look it is amazingly easy to grow.
Pests, diseases and even deer don’t bother the Red Diamond™ Loropetalum. You can trim in spring, as the main flowering ends, but only if you want to – otherwise you can just leave it grow naturally (and beautifully).
The Chinese fringe-flower, Loropetalum chinense, grows in China, Japan, and much of south-east Asia. The usual wild plant has green leaves and white flowers, which is why it never attracted much attention. In China they have known about a rare form with red leaves in spring and fall, and pink flowers. Botanists call it ‘variety rubrum’. Several plants were introduced into the west in the 1990s, and breeders immediately set to work improving them. Thomas Meadows, Jr. and James Berry are experts with these plants, working at Plant Development Services Inc., in Loxley, Alabama. They sowed a big batch of seeds of this red variety, and early this century they selected some of the best. Their seedling with the brightest red flowers (plus all its other great features) was named ‘Shang-Red’. After further testing for quality and durability it has been released to gardeners as Red Diamond™, part of the Southern Living® Plant Collection.
We love this great plant, and also its sister, the Purple Diamond® Loropetalum. We can’t choose between them so why not get both? If you have to make a choice you will love it, but these plants are so stunningly popular we almost have to tie them down to stop them running away, so order now – they sure won’t be around for long.