By Kim Toscano
One of the several advantages of Southern Living® Plant Collection’s Loropetalums is their easy-care growth habit. These low-maintenance shrubs have a compact size that requires very little pruning. Unlike other loropetalums, Purple Pixie® Dwarf Weeping Loropetalum grows only 1- to 2-feet tall by 4- to 5-feet wide.
Even Purple Diamond® Semi-dwarf Loropetalum is more manageable than standard loropetalums, which can swallow your house without pruning. The compact Purple Diamond® Loropetalum grows to an average size of 4- to 6-feet tall and wide.
However, there are times when pruning loropetalums may be desirable. Perhaps you have an older variety that has outgrown its home or you wish to maintain a more compact plant for a container or other small space. Rest assured, loropetalums respond well to pruning.
Pruning Tips for Gorgeous Loropetalums
Plan your pruning for spring after plants have finished flowering, otherwise, you risk cutting off the flower buds.
Part of the beauty of loropetalum lies in its free-flowing, natural form. Keep this in mind as you prune by making cuts at different lengths to maintain the shrub’s natural appearance. As you work, step back frequently to look at the overall shape.
Start by removing any dead branches, cutting them at their point of origin. Look for damaged limbs and trim these an inch or two beyond the break. Next cut back any stray or unruly shoots that detract from the overall form of the shrub. In general, cutting stems back to the point of origin or a lateral branch (called thinning cuts) is preferred to simply clipping the tips of branches, as it promotes more natural growth. Basic selective pruning can be performed annually.
Overgrown loropetalums may be cut back after blooming to reduce size. While plants tolerate heavy pruning, it is best to remove only one-quarter to one-third of the plant at a time. Use thinning cuts to maintain a strong form. Loropetalums regrow quickly. If you anticipate needing to prune regularly to control size, transplanting the shrub to another location may be a better option. Do this during the dormant season. Then you may plant a more compact variety like Purple Daydream® Dwarf Loropetalum in its place.
Loropetalum are extremely versatile shrubs. They may be sheared into formal hedges or topiaries, limbed up into a tree form or standard, and trained flat against a wall. However, the natural form is striking, so why go through that trouble? To avoid the task of repeated heavy pruning, select a variety that can mature to its full size in the space available.