Posted by Brent Wilson on 8/27/2016 to Planting & Growing Tips
With it's dense, mounding form and outstanding foliage and flower color, Purple Pixie® Loropetalum is just the plant we've been looking for...for decades. Growing to only 2 feet in height with a spread of 3-4 feet, it boasts some of the most intense purple foliage color of any plant on the market, and the color doesn't fade during summer or winter or in sun or in shade. Vibrant pink, witchhazel-like, fringe flowers are produced in spring, providing a stunning contrast to the the purple, evergreen foliage.
When planted right, and in the right spot, Purple Pixie® Loropetalum is easy to grow and maintain in landscape beds or containers. It must have well-drained soil. As with so many other ornamental plants, constantly soggy or wet soil can cause root rot or other harmful plant diseases. It is cold hardy in USDA Zones: 7a-10b Find Your Zone >
Here's a breakdown of what you need to know...
(Scroll down for container planting instructions)
Purple Pixie® Loropetalum is not picky about soil type, however prefers a somewhat loose, fertile and well-drained soil. Well-drained soil is a must. As with so many other types of ornamental plants, constantly soggy or wet soil can and often will cause root rot and other harmful plant diseases.
How To Test Soil Drainage
If you are uncertain about soil drainage in the area you intend to plant your Purple Pixie Loropetalum, it's well worth taking the time to test the drainage before planting. To test soil drainage, dig a hole 12" wide by 12" deep in the planting area. Fill the hole with water and let it drain. Then, after it drains, fill it with water again, but this time clock how long it takes to drain. In well-drained soil the water level will go down at a rate of about 1 inch an hour. A faster rate, such as in loose, sandy soil, may signal potentially dry site conditions. A slower rate indicates poor draining soil and is a caution you need to improve drainage, plant in a raised mound or bed, or look for plants that are more tolerant of wet or boggy conditions.
Purple Pixie® Loropetalum will grow in full, all-day sun or part shade. For best foliage color and flowering provide at least 4 to 5 hours of direct sunlight or all-day lightly filtered sun. Morning sun with afternoon shade is fine. Morning shade with afternoon sun is fine.
Scroll down for container planting instructions
Start by digging your planting hole at least two to three times as wide and no deeper than the rootball. The wider the hole the better. Place native soil removed from planting hole around the perimeter of the hole, in a wheel barrow, or on a tarp.
Depending on the type, fertility and porosity of the soil in the planting area you might need to amend the native soil. When planting in dense clay or other compacted soils it is beneficial to thoroughly mix in some bagged top soil, sand, and/or a good planting mix at a 50/50 ratio with the soil removed from the planting hole. When planting in very sandy, quick-draining soil you might want to consider mixing in some top soil, peat moss and/or compost to help retain moisture. When planting in fertile, loamy, well-drained soil there is no need for adding a soil amendment.
Be very careful when removing your Purple Pixie® Loropetalum from the container it was growing in. To be on the safe side, we suggest cutting the container away rather than trying to lift the root ball from the container. After having removed the plant from the container, gently loosen some feeder roots around the surface of the root ball. If root bound, you can spray the sides and bottom of the root ball with a gentle stream of water from a garden hose. This will help to wash away some soil from the exterior of the root ball making it easier to loosen roots.
Keep in mind that Purple Pixie Loropetalum must have a well-drained soil. If you are planting in well-drained soil set your plant in the planting hole so that the top edge of the rootball is at or slightly above ground level. If your soil drains slowly, holding water for an extended period of time after rainfall or irrigation, the top of the root ball should be 2 to 3 inches above ground level. If necessary, add some backfill soil mixture to the bottom of the hole to achieve proper planting height.
NOTE: If the soil is poorly drained (constantly soggy or wet) plant the root ball in a raised mound entirely above ground level or select a different plant species more tolerant of wet soils.
After setting your Loropetalum in the planting hole, use one hand to hold the plant straight and your other hand to begin back-filling your soil mixture around the root ball, tamping as you go to remove air pockets. When you have filled the hole to the halfway point you can soak the soil. Then continue back-filling to the top edge of the root ball. If you are planting higher than ground level taper your soil mixture gradually from the top edge of the root ball to the ground level, as shown in the planting diagram above. To avoid suffocating your plant, do not put any soil on top of the root ball.
Step 6 (Optional)
When planting Purple Pixie Loropetalum in a location that is far from a water source, you can use remaining soil mixture to build a water retaining berm (catch basin) around the outside perimeter of the planting hole. Only build this berm if the soil is very well-drained. This basin will help to collect water from rainfall and irrigation often reducing the need for hand-watering. The berm can be removed after a year or so, when the plant has established itself.
Next, deeply water the planting area, including the root ball, to a depth equal to the height of the root ball. For an extra boost, to stimulate early root formation and stronger root development you can also water you newly planted Loropetalum with a solution of Root Stimulator, which reduces transplant shock and promotes greener, more vigorous plants.
Spread a 1-inch layer of shredded or chipped wood mulch or a 2-inch layer of pine straw around the planting area to conserve moisture and to suppress weed growth. As the mulch decomposes it will add vital nutrients to the soil that your plant will appreciate. Do not use freshly chipped or shredded wood for mulch until it has cured in a pile for at least 6 months, a year is better. Avoid placing or piling mulch directly against the base of your plant as this could cause the bark to rot.
Container Planting Instructions
It's much smaller size makes Purple Pixie Loropetalum ideal for use in container gardens. Loropetalum growing in pots appreciate a moist but well-drained soil. Constantly soggy soil can and often will cause root rot or other harmful plant diseases. Therefore, when planting in a container or pot I recommend using a quality potting soil or potting mix, or a 50/50 combination thereof. You can also add some perlite to help with drainage.
Also make sure to choose a container with a drainage hole(s) at the bottom and one that is large enough to allow for 2 to 3 years of growth before shifting up to a larger size container. This might mean your planting pot would be 6 inches or more in width than the root ball of your plant.
Container color will matter as well. Not only will you want to pick a color of container that goes well with the flower and foliage color of your Purple Pixie® Loropetalum, you'll also want to pick a container that matches the style of your home or other structures and other plants in the surrounding environment.
Many nursery & garden centers offer a wide variety of containers to choose from. Before heading out to buy a container take pictures of your home and the surrounding environment. Doing so will help you to choose just the right color and style.
Before filling your container with the soil mix, we recommend lining the bottom with shade cloth or a porous landscape fabric. This will keep the drain holes from becoming stopped up with soil.
Be very careful when removing your Purple Pixie Loropetalum from the container it was growing in. To be on the safe side, we suggest cutting the container away rather than trying to lift the root ball from the container. After having removed the plant from the container, gently loosen some feeder roots around the surface of the root ball. If root bound, you can spray the sides and bottom of the root ball with a gentle stream of water from a garden hose. This will help to wash away some soil from the exterior of the root ball making it easier to loosen roots.
Pour a small amount of your soil mixture in the bottom of the container. Set your Purple Pixie® Loropetalum in the container and make necessary adjustments by adding or removing some soil so that the top edge of the root ball will sit 1/2 to 1" below the rim of the container.
Backfill with your potting soil around root ball, tamping as you go, until the level of potting soil is even with the top edge of root ball.
Water thoroughly until water starts to drain from the holes in the bottom of the container. Add more potting mix if settling occurs during watering.
Step 6 (Optional)
Apply a 1/2" layer of pine bark or wood chips to soil surface to help conserve moisture.
Caring For Purple Pixie Loropetalum
When planted right and in the right spot, Purple Pixie Loropetalum are exceptionally easy to grow and care for.
Fertilizing Purple Pixie Loropetalum
Loropetalum are light feeders, however will benefit from fertilization. Fertilize them in spring with a slow-release shrub & tree food, preferably one containing iron and sulfur. Alternatively, you can feed with a natural organic plant food. To avoid stimulating new growth that could be damaged by an early frost, cease fertilization two months prior to the first frost date in your area.
Soil pH - Loropetalum grow best in acid to slightly acid soil ranging from 4.5 to 6.5 on the pH scale. Most average garden soils fall between a pH range of 6.0 to 7.0.
How To Test Soil pH Soil pH is a measurement of the alkalinity or acidity of soil and is measured on a scale of 1-14, with 7 as the neutral mark. Any measurement below 7 indicates acid soil conditions, and anything above 7 indicates alkaline. If you're unsure about the pH of your soil, or whether or not it's suitable for growing Loropetalum, it's a good idea to test the soil pH in the planting area. You can quickly test soil pH with an inexpensive soil pH tester probe. To raise the pH (make more alkaline) you can add pelletized limestone to the soil. To lower the pH (make more acid) you can apply Soil Sulfur, Aluminum Sulfate, or Chelated Iron. Adding organic compost to the soil or using compost as mulch can also help to increase acidity and maintain acid soil conditions.
Learn More: What is Soil pH and How To Adjust It?
Watering Purple Pixie Loropetalum
Loropetalum will not tolerate constantly soggy or wet soil conditions, which can lead to root rot and other harmful plant diseases. So be careful to plant them in a well-drained site and avoid over-watering them!
Note: When watering with an automated irrigation system it's best to set your timer to water during the early morning hours and not in the late evening or at night, which can lead to the onset of fungus and other foliar diseases. During the first few weeks after planting, check soil moisture often and adjust irrigation time if necessary to keep the soil moist, not wet.
At Planting Time
Immediately after planting deep soak the soil in the planting area, including the rootball, to a depth equal to the height of the root ball. For an extra boost, you can water your newly planted Purple Pixie® Loropetalum with a solution of Root Stimulator, which stimulates early root formation and stronger root development. Root Stimulator reduces plant shock and promotes greener, more vigorous plants.
During the First Active Growth Season
In average garden soil you should not have to water your newly planted Purple Pixie® Loropetalum every day. More often than not, this causes soggy soil conditions that can lead to root rot and other harmful plant diseases. In the absence of sufficient rainfall, water only as needed to keep the rootball and surrounding soil damp to moist. Keep in mind that deep soaking less frequently, allowing the soil to dry out somewhat before watering again, is much better than splashing just a little water on the plants every day. Shrubs planted during the winter dormant season, when they are not actively growing and evaporation is much slower, will require much less water. So, be extra careful not to overwater during winter!
When established, Loropetalum are exceptionally drought tolerant and will require little if any supplemental irrigation. Our original plantings of Purple Pixie in 2008 are never provided supplemental irrigation. If you see new leaves wilting or the tips of new stems bending over during dry weather this could be a sign your plants could use a good deep soaking. Check soil moisture and provide water only if necessary.
Pruning Purple Pixie Loropetalum
Purple Pixie® Loropetalum requires little if any pruning to keep its dense and mounding form. A stray or damaged branch that is spoiling the shape or the look of the plant can be snipped off any time of year. Plants can be sheared a couple times during the active growth season for a more formal appearance.
Plant Long & Prosper!
Questions? Contact Us!