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Native alternative(s) for Chionanthus retusus:
Chionanthus virginicus Flowering branch
Plants that fill a similar niche:
Hamamelis virginiana Leaves
Cornus kousa Cornus kousa
Acer rubrum Acer rubrum

Chinese Fringe Tree Chionanthus retusus

Other Common Name(s):

Previously known as:

  • Chionanthus chinensis
  • Chionanthus coreanus
Phonetic Spelling
kee-oh-NAN-thus re-TOO-sus
Description

What kind of plant is as tough as nails, has gorgeous foliage, snow-white flowers, and exfoliating bark? It’s the Chinese fringetree. It's native to Korea, China, and Japan. This easy-to-grow deciduous tree displays a showy, white, clustered bloom that appears like fringe each spring.  While the male plant has showier flowers than the female, the attractive fruits that birds and some mammals use as a food source only appears on the female plant.  

Sometimes grown as a multi-stemmed large shrub, Chinese fringetree can develop into a modest-sized tree, ranging in height from 10 to 20 feet. Under ideal conditions, it can reach heights up to 30 to 40 feet tall.  Transplant this Asian native into a location with full sun or partial shade. The lustrous, leathery foliage looks best when grown in some light shade (dappled sunlight), while the flowering is heaviest when planted in full sun. This tree tends to flower better in alternate years.  The only real downside is that is it frequently damaged by deer.

The Chinese fringetree is an excellent choice anywhere a small tree is needed. It is well suited for most Carolina landscapes, due to its adaptability to our varied soil types. Use as a specimen tree or in a mixed shrub border. Like many white-flowered plants, the fringetree looks especially pretty transplanted in front of a dark evergreen backdrop.

Insect Disease and other Pest Problems: Frequently damaged by deer.  No serious insect or diseases.  Leaf spot, canker and powdery mildew are an occasional issue.  Borers, mites and scale are a minor issue.  

VIDEO created by Andy Pulte for “Landscape Plant Identification, Taxonomy and Morphology” a plant identification course offered by the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Tennessee.

 

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscape:
Hydrangeas in the Garden
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Serrulatus'
  • 'Tokyo Tower'
    Columnar habit/ vertical feature plant
'Serrulatus', 'Tokyo Tower'
Tags:
#fragrant#deciduous#small tree#full sun tolerant#rain garden#fragrant flowers#small spaces#specimen#white flowers#shrub#wildlife plant#low maintenance#spring flowers#flowering tree#air pollution tolerant#cpp#large shrub#deer browsing plant#dappled sunlight#children's garden#playground plant#showstopper#border planting#spring interest#exfoliating bark#urban conditions tolerant#bird friendly#winter garden#partial shade tolerant#dry soils intolerant#drought intolerant#landscape plant sleuths course
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Serrulatus'
  • 'Tokyo Tower'
    Columnar habit/ vertical feature plant
'Serrulatus', 'Tokyo Tower'
Tags:
#fragrant#deciduous#small tree#full sun tolerant#rain garden#fragrant flowers#small spaces#specimen#white flowers#shrub#wildlife plant#low maintenance#spring flowers#flowering tree#air pollution tolerant#cpp#large shrub#deer browsing plant#dappled sunlight#children's garden#playground plant#showstopper#border planting#spring interest#exfoliating bark#urban conditions tolerant#bird friendly#winter garden#partial shade tolerant#dry soils intolerant#drought intolerant#landscape plant sleuths course
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Chionanthus
    Species:
    retusus
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Ideal for a rain garden and for fall color.
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Central & S. China, Taiwan, S. Korea, Japan
    Wildlife Value:
    Attracts birds
    Play Value:
    Attracts Pollinators
    Easy to Grow
    Fragrance
    Shade
    Wildlife Food Source
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    range of soil types
    Dimensions:
    Height: 10 ft. 0 in. - 20 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 10 ft. 0 in. - 20 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Shrub
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Columnar
    Erect
    Multi-stemmed
    Multi-trunked
    Rounded
    Spreading
    Vase
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Coarse
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Dappled Sunlight (Shade through upper canopy all day)
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    Loam (Silt)
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    12-24 feet
    24-60 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    5a, 5b, 6b, 6a, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Blue
    Purple/Lavender
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Drupe
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    There are 0.5-in. dark blue fruit on female trees.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Purple/Lavender
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Panicle
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Shape:
    Irregular
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    This plant has snow-white, fragrant flowers in 4" panicles at ends of shoots. This tree displays a showy, white, clustered bloom that appear like fringe each spring.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Leathery
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Opposite
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Serrate
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Leaves are 3-8 in. opposite, leathery, and lustrous. The foliage is bright green on the upper side, while the underside is a downy, whitish green. Young leaves have a serrate margin
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Dark Brown
    Dark Gray
    Surface/Attachment:
    Exfoliating
    Ridges
    Bark Description:
    The exfoliating bark makes this plant a great choice for a winter garden.
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Description:
    Can be grown as both multi-trunked or single trunk.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Patio
    Pond
    Recreational Play Area
    Landscape Theme:
    Children's Garden
    Rain Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Border
    Flowering Tree
    Small Tree
    Specimen
    Attracts:
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Urban Conditions