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How to Care for a Chinese Fringetree

Smita Pandit Mar 21, 2020
Chinese fringetrees are deciduous trees that belong to the Chionanthus genus. Native to China, Korea, and Japan, they are considered to be ornamental trees that are valued for the panicles of beautiful white flowers appearing in the bloom season. Read ahead for instructions on Chinese fringetree care.
The Chinese fringetree prefers slightly acidic soil. When grown in alkaline soil, it is likely to exhibit yellowing of the areas between the veins (interveinal leaf yellowing) due to iron chlorosis. So, make sure that you provide it with the right soil type.
The Chinese fringetree can be identified by its snowy-white, fringe-like flowers. Chionanthus, the genus it belongs to, is derived from the Greek words Chion, which means snow, and Anthus, which means flower. The term Retusus refers to the shape of the leaf, which is rounded, and has a shallow notch at the apex.
This tree is native to certain regions of China; hence, the name. It is also endemic to Korea and Japan. It is often used for landscaping, mainly due to the panicles of fleece-like, snowy-white flowers, with which the tree gets covered during the flowering season. It is popular as an ornamental plant in North America and Europe.
The shiny, elliptical-to-oblong leaves of Chionanthus retusus are larger than the foliage of its American cousin, Chionanthus virginicus (American fringetree). Many prefer this tree over the American fringetree due to the abundance of flowers during the bloom season. Moreover, its flowers are wider than that of Chionanthus virginicus.

Information about the Chinese Fringetree

Plant type: Multi-stemmed deciduous shrub or tree
Genus: Chionanthus
Family: Oleaceace (Olive family)
Order: Lamiales
Scientific Name: Chionanthus retusus
✦ Native to: China, Korea, and Japan
✦ USDA Hardiness Zone: 6 through 8
✦ Height: Up to 25 feet
✦ Spread: Up to 25 feet
✦ Growth Rate: Slow to medium
✦ Light Requirement: Full sun in the morning, with afternoon shade
Watering: Average watering till the plant is well-established; Needs less water thereafter
Soil: Moist, slightly acidic soil
Soil Requirement: Well-drained
Flowers: Panicles of showy, snow-white flowers
Flowering Season: Spring
Colors: White
Foliage: Green
Propagation: Seeds or cuttings; Difficult to propagate through cuttings
Other Characteristics: Attracts birds

Instructions on Chinese Fringetree Care

Relatively easy to care for, the Chinese fringetree will flourish if you fulfill its soil, light, watering, and fertilization needs.

Planting Site

The right planting site for Chinese fringetree would be area that gets direct sunlight in morning, with some afternoon shade. Though it does well in full sun, it can tolerate partial shade. However, profuse flowering is more likely when it receives ample sunlight. As it can grow up to 25 feet in height and width, plant it where there's ample room for growth.

Soil Type and Watering Needs

The Chinese fringetree grows best in soil that is slightly acidic. It has been observed that growing it in alkaline soil can sometimes cause the area around the veins of the leaves to turn yellow. Also, it has been known to survive in soil that remains wet for extended periods.
This plant is slightly drought-tolerant, but it requires regular/weekly watering till it becomes established. It also requires supplemental watering during dry spells. For the plant to thrive, it is advisable to plant it in evenly moist, well-drained, slightly acidic or neutral soil, with the pH within 6.0 to 7.0.
Establish a 4-inch deep layer of mulch around the base of the Chinese fringetree in a 3-4 ft. radius in order to keep the soil moist.

Fertilizer and Pruning

Once the Chionanthus retusus shrub/tree is established, it requires very little care. To encourage growth, you can apply a balanced fertilizer during the growing season. Before applying the fertilizer, water the tree till at least the top 4 inches of soil become evenly moist.
Rake up the surface of the soil up to the depth of an inch and the radius of 5 feet around the tree. Spread the fertilizer on the soil, ensuring that there's some gap between the fertilizer and the base of the tree. Thereafter, water the soil deeply. In order to keep the soil moist, add a 3-inch layer of mulch on the soil.


If not pruned, Chinese fringetrees appear like multi-stemmed shrubs. The lower branches/foliage or limbs can be removed to turn it into a tree with a single trunk. It must be noted that this tree blooms on the previous season's growth, which means the tree should not be pruned when it lies dormant. Prune it in summer, right after the flowers fade.
While the fruits borne by the female Chinese fringetree attract birds, the clusters of beautiful, fragrant flowers will definitely leave you mesmerized. It is certainly an excellent choice for landscaping, as it will never fail to put on a great display during the bloom season.