When to Prune Loropetalum

September 5, 2008 | By | Comments (180)

Shrub
Q: Hi Grumpy Gardener,

I feel like I could describe myself this way also!!

How far back can a lorepetelum be cut/trimmed back? (I may have spelled the name of the plant incorectly-don’t hold it against me.) I bought such small plants years ago, and now they just grow so large if I don’t keep them trimmed!

Please advise about this plant!

Thanks,

Gardener in Georgia

A: Dear Aspiring To Be Grumpy,

Loropetalum is a fast-growing shrub that takes very well to pruning. It can even be sheared into a formal hedge or trained flat against a wall. You can cut it back as far as needed. However, now is not the time, because it sets flower buds in summer. If you trim it now, you won’t get any blooms in late winter and early spring. Wait to trim it until after it finishes blooming in spring.

Grumpy

COMMENTS

  1. maggie

    loropetalum been in same spot for 4 years – am in south east (nc) plenty of sun and suficient water.. poof — branches brittle, leaves all dried.. what happened.

    October 4, 2010 at 8:18 pm
  2. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Maggie,
    I wish I could see your shrub up close. I could probably figure it out then. If watering isn’t the issue, my guess is either that somebody sprayed or poured something around the roots that they shouldn’t or that the bark has been stripped away near the base.

    October 5, 2010 at 7:34 am
  3. Terri

    I planted a lorpetalum tree that was multi trunk, actually Three tress that had been grown together for a long time…It was beautiful when I planted it in mid september but now the leaves are turning red and falling off.. there are some new shoots growing from the base of two of the trees and some new growth on the trunk…All of which come spring I will trim off to keep the tree shape, the third doesn’t look so good, It has lost the most leaves and looks very bare and I do not see any sprouts on it …yet all three have some flowers…
    The nursery wrapped the tree so that I could bring it home, do you think the stress of that and planting and the warm days here in Atlanta are the cause of it loosing its leaves…

    October 13, 2010 at 6:36 pm
  4. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Terri,
    In a word, “yes.” Ordinarily loropetalum is a very tough plant and can take a lot of abuse. But this fall’s heat and drought have taken a toll. Give it some TLC and watch to see where it leafs out next spring before pruning.

    October 14, 2010 at 2:15 pm
  5. Terri

    great thanks, but it turns out I may have over watered it. Didnt realize that we had left the hose running on it and the soil hadnt perked out.
    I have let it dry out and it seems to be doing better.
    Will it leaf out come spring?

    October 20, 2010 at 7:58 pm
  6. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    All I can say is it might.

    October 22, 2010 at 11:43 am
  7. Deborah Britt

    I have a couple of wild rabbits that is comming up to the house at night out of the woods. They are having a feast on my Liriope Variegated foliage. They eat it down to the ground which I have alot of it around my flowerbeds. A feed store sugested Blood Meal and I spinkled some on them. I am realy in disstress about these rabbits eating up my pride and joy. Sugestions needed thankyou for your hepl.

    October 27, 2010 at 8:44 pm
  8. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Deborah,
    Here is a link for Liquid Fence Rabbit Repellent: http://www.liquidfence.com/dual-rabbit.html

    October 28, 2010 at 4:37 pm
  9. Cassandra

    Several years ago,we planted some loropetalum around a dogwood tree-I can’t remember what variety. We have the house now as a rental property and sadly the yard isn’t maintained as it was when we lived there. The loropetalum have become monsterous,it’s probably close to 6 feet tall and someone suggested cutting them all the way down. Can I do that or can I just do some heavy pruning with a chainsaw to reshape it(the branches around the bottom of the trunk are probably 3-4 inches)and and I need to trim the height down to about 4 1/2 feet.
    Thanks,

    November 15, 2010 at 3:20 am
  10. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    You certainly don’t need a chain saw to reduce its height by a foot-and-a-half. You can use loppers or hand pruners. But I have to question the placement of the loropetalums around the dogwood tree. They probably looked fine as 1-gallon plants, but as they grow they’ll quickly engulf your dogwood. If it were me, I’d replace them with a dwarf loropetalum called ‘Purple Pixie.’ This one crawls along the ground and gets no more than a foot high.

    November 15, 2010 at 12:21 pm
  11. wesley sherrill

    Dear Grumpy,
    I live in the mid-section of North Carolina and I would like to cut back my loropetlum, however it has at this present time real pretty blooms. Should I cut now or wait till after winter, say 1st of March. 11-27-10

    November 27, 2010 at 9:48 am
  12. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Wait until the blooms fall off before pruning. You can prune it in winter, but you might want to wait until spring to see if it blooms again.

    November 28, 2010 at 10:45 am
  13. lynn

    We recently dug up a boxwood that was too closely planted by the former homeowner to a lovely loropetalum that I want to keep. It is about 2 ft tall by 3 ft wide. A few days after removing the boxwood, all the leaves on the loropetalum are wilting. I hope we didn’t kill it. I’m guessing we disturbed its roots. Is there anything we can do to keep it alive?

    December 2, 2010 at 4:16 pm
  14. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Yes, it sounds like you disturbed the roots all right. But don’t panic. Loropetalum is tough. Water it well and it should come right back.

    December 6, 2010 at 10:38 am
  15. rookie

    I planted a long row of loropetalum in October. Most of the leaves look dead on a few of the plants. The leaves haven’tfallen off, but the plants almost look dead. Is there something that I can do this time of year that will help? Live on NC/SC border.

    February 12, 2011 at 12:19 pm
  16. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Don’t worry, Rookie. It is not uncommon for loropetalum for drop leaves or become discolored during a particularly cold winter. Don’t do anything now. As soon as the weather warms up, they should send out new foliage.

    February 14, 2011 at 1:18 pm
  17. RLewis

    I live in Atlanta and need to get a house ready for Spring sale and have some really overgrown Lorapetalums. Can I trim them way back now (late Feb) and will they look ok come Spring?

    February 19, 2011 at 2:53 pm
  18. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    If you prune them before they bloom, you’ll cut off all the flowers for this year. So you might want to want a couple weeks. If the blooms don’t matter to you, though, have at it. Loropetalums take well to pruning.

    February 21, 2011 at 9:06 am
  19. Mountain gardener

    We have four loropetalums on the east side of our home. Two of the plants look as if deer lay down in the middle, some branches are broken. We also had a fair amount of snow this winter so I’m not sure which did the damage but I think it was deer. What is the best way to repair the damage? I’m thinking of pruning the two shrubs way back after they bloom. Is this the correct thing to do?

    March 21, 2011 at 11:27 am
  20. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Mountain Gardener,
    Loropetalaum grows fast and responds well to pruning, so you can cut them back quite hard after they bloom and they’ll regain their arching, mounding shape by fall.

    March 22, 2011 at 11:22 am
  21. Barb

    The loropetalum I planted last fall in South Mississippi dropped its leaves over the winter, then bloomed gorgeous pink flowers in early March, now looks dead. I cut a small piece off, it is still green inside. How much should I water and feed? (it is very dry right now). How long will it take for new growth to appear? Please help, I am new to gardening in the South.

    March 23, 2011 at 2:23 pm
  22. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Be patient. It should definitely leaf out soon. If it doesn’t, it’s probably going to die. Sometimes blooming is a plant’s last hurrah. Hopefully not in this case. Hold off on fertilizer until it leafs out. Keep the soil moist though.

    March 25, 2011 at 2:04 pm
  23. Courtney

    I have lorpetalums that have very few leaves, but they seem to be purple and producing flowers. Some are not producing any flowers right now. We have fertilized them and they are watered twice daily. If they have very few leaves, are they dead and need to be replaced?

    April 4, 2011 at 11:04 am
  24. Courtney

    When do lorpetalums bloom completely. We planted them in the summer of last year and a few of them are doing great and a few of them only have a few leaves. What can I do to make all of them get their leaves back? Thanks.

    April 4, 2011 at 11:08 am
  25. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Loropetalums bloom in early spring. Cold winters can cause them to lose some foliage, but they leaf out again in spring. I think you can stop fertilizing and watering. Loropetalums don’t need to be babied. They’re pretty carefree.

    April 5, 2011 at 8:09 am
  26. Bill

    I had two very large loropetalums (about 8 ft.) that I cut back severely around the 1st of October to about 3 ft. with no greenery left. I now notice absolutely no signs of life. Is it possible I killed them?

    April 5, 2011 at 2:07 pm
  27. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Bill, it’s hard to kill loropetalums. Try scratching the bark to see if there’s a green layer underneath. If there is, the plants are still alive.

    April 8, 2011 at 7:51 am
  28. Tina

    I planted 5 plum delight loropetalums on Saturday April 2, and by Thursday, 4 of the 5 plants look dead. I pinched off some of the twigs and they are hollow inside. How could that happen in 5 days? I am SO upset. I have not scratched the bark yet but I am not optimistic. Any suggestion…anyone????

    April 10, 2011 at 2:37 pm
  29. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Tina,
    I’m not sure what’s going on with your loropetalums. I assume they looked healthy when you bought them and you watered them after planting. If the plants are guaranteed for a certain period of time, you might just return them for replacements.

    April 14, 2011 at 8:59 am
  30. Cathy

    I just transplanted a loropetalum and it is looking dead. I am scared that I killed it. I know that plants go into shock when you move them, but it has been a week and it is steadily looking worse and worse. How long should it be before it should start showing signs of life???

    April 20, 2011 at 4:29 pm
  31. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Cathy,
    An easy way to test if a shrub is dead is to scratch the bark. If you see green underneath, it’s alive. If you see only brown, it’s dead. Test a few few different branches to determine the shrub’s overall state.

    April 21, 2011 at 3:11 pm
  32. Patty

    My lorapetalum have brownish, soft leaves. Is it dying? We are in drought conditions in NE Florida so we have been hand-watering. In the middle are a few branches with green leaves.

    May 21, 2011 at 6:57 pm
  33. Dan

    On the planting instructions it says to space the Purple Diamond Compact Loropetalum 10ft apart. Can you plant them closer than 10ft? What is the closest that they could be planted? Would simple yearly pruning keep them from growing into each other and what are the negatives with planting them close to each other (3-4) feet?

    May 22, 2011 at 9:20 pm
  34. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Patty,
    Your loropetalum doesn’t sound healthy. I would prune it back to the green leaves, give it some TLC, and hope for the best.
    Dan,
    You can plant them closer, but I wouldn’t space them any closer than about 5 feet. They grow fast and will fill in quickly. They do take pruning well. This should be done by the middle of June to keep from cutting off next year’s flowers.

    May 23, 2011 at 2:36 pm
  35. yeezy

    I have small purple loropetalums that I took out of small pots and planted in my yard. I want them to be full and eventually boxed off. Do not want them to be stimmy at the bottom. When do I start prunging them? Thank you

    May 26, 2011 at 3:43 pm
  36. Robyn Vest

    Hello,
    Two years ago, I bought three ever-read loropetalums. They have never been pruned, and are gorgeous. I bought them for privacy to come up over my fence. How do I train them to hug my fence? I have heard that you can prune them to make them look like a small tree; however, I have no idea how to do this. Would it be dangerous to tie some of the branches together with string?

    May 27, 2011 at 11:21 pm
  37. Robyn Vest

    ever-red*

    May 27, 2011 at 11:25 pm
  38. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    Yeezy,
    Grumpy is not a fan of shrubs sheared into boxes, but if you like yours this way, more power to you. Loropetalums take pruning and shearing very well. Because yours are small, I think I would just let them grow this year before doing any pruning. Once they’re established, they grow quite fast.
    Robyn,
    Yes, you can train loropetalums into small trees. All this involves is allowing a few main trunks to grow and pruning the others off near ground level. Then prune off any side branches on these trunks up to 4 feet or so. You can also train them to grow flat against a fence using wire or twine to secure main branches to nails in the fence. This practice is called “espalier.” Look up espalier on the internet if you want to see how it’s done.

    May 31, 2011 at 11:47 am
  39. cindy

    We planted purple diamond loropetalums 3 years ago across a berm to separate the bed from woods behind them. We planted them about 4 feet apart hoping they would form a nice purple hedge against the green background. The are still only a foot high at best. Some have grown in width and forward, but not so much in height. Would shaping them induce growth? I fertilize 3 times a year and try to keep them watered. Any suggestions on getting them to get big? We are in southern AL.

    June 8, 2011 at 6:13 pm
  40. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Something is wrong here. Loropetalums grow fast. My guess is that they don’t like the location — probably too much shade. That’s why they’re stretching forward. Pruning them might encourage them to grow straighter, but you’ll have to keep doing it. One other thought — are you sure they’re ‘Purple Diamond’ and not ‘Purple Pixie?’ ‘Purple Pixie’ is a dwarf weeping plant that sounds like what you have.

    June 11, 2011 at 10:19 am
  41. Deborah

    Why do my purple loropetalum loose its very purple color in the summer? The leaves turn green. I want them to keep their purple color year round.

    June 12, 2011 at 9:05 am
  42. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Deborah,
    It depends on the selection of loropetalum you have. For example, ‘Burgundy’ is purple in spring, but later turns bronze-green. ‘Purple Diamond’ stays purple all year.

    June 12, 2011 at 11:09 am
  43. Pamela

    How Long Does Shock Lasts for a Ruby Loropetalum?
    I planted my ruby loropetalum over a year ago and it isn’t producing many leaves. The ones it does get in the spring and late fall are always located to the top. I performed the scratch test and the sides and bottom branches were basically brown even the bark of one but the other bark is nice and green, so I cut them off the brown branches and cut all the way to the bark of the brown one. Then, I added cow compost and peat moss today and (some lilly miller’s Vitamin B1 and plant starter a week ago) a good watering today 7/3/11. Does it has a chance? When will I see results? PS the bark that is still very green has leaves and I noticed that it was the only bark of the two whose branches produced leaves and pink flowers but the flowers are no more just the greenish / dark reddish leaves.

    July 3, 2011 at 8:44 pm
  44. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Pamela,
    Your plant doesn’t sound very healthy. Only the stems with green underneath the bark are alive. The others are dead, so you might as well remove them. Fertilizing now won’t do any good. It may even stress the plant more. Just make sure the plant doesn’t dry to the point of wilting and maybe it will grow back.

    July 4, 2011 at 10:36 am
  45. Deb

    I’m considering planting this for the first time in a bed where I had 2-3 camellias that died due to needing extra watering in hot weather. Is this plant not good for inside an established bed due to it growing too big, too fast?

    July 7, 2011 at 4:26 pm
  46. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    Deb,
    There are many selections of loropetalum out there. Some grow huge. Others don’t. It sounds like you need one like ‘Purple Diamond.’ It grows about 4 feet tall and wide and has purple foliage and pink flowers. It’s part of our Southern Living Plant Collection. Look for it in garden centers.

    July 8, 2011 at 11:16 am
  47. Sandy

    I planted 5 Purple Pixie in March in Clearwater Florida area. They did well until about amonth ago and now one is dead and the others are turning brown. We water with reclaimed 3 times a week. Any ideas what I should do? Thanks, Sandy

    July 17, 2011 at 2:18 pm
  48. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Sandy,
    I’m going to guess it was a watering issue. The sandy Florida soil doesn’t hold water very long. When the weather gets hot, it dries quickly and so does the plant. When you replace the dead shrubs, first incorporate lots of organic matter, such as peat or compost,into the soil to help it hold water. The more you add, the better the plants will like it.

    July 22, 2011 at 10:33 am
  49. Cheryl

    I planted three ‘Purple Diamond’ in the same area a couple of weeks ago. At the time of planting, all three were the known gorgeous purple color. However, one them is now totally green with only a few tiny purple leaves on the ends. It looks healthy, just green.

    August 6, 2011 at 8:15 am
  50. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    Cheryl,
    It must be suffering from a little transplanting stress, especially if the weather is hot and dry. Give it some TLC and it should begin looking better.

    August 8, 2011 at 2:34 pm