Easily grown in average, medium moisture, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. Best flowering occurs in full sun. Prefers deep, moist, fertile, acidic soils. Seldom needs pruning. Tolerant of air pollution and adapts well to urban settings. Intolerant of prolonged dry conditions.
Chionanthus retusus commonly called Chinese fringetree is native to China, Korea and Japan. As with the native U. S. species (C. virginicus), this plant is noted for its profuse spring bloom of fragrant white flowers. It is most often seen in cultivation as a large, multi-stemmed, deciduous shrub growing to 10-20’ tall with a rounded, wide-spreading form. It also may be grown as a small tree (multi-trunked or trained as a single trunk), ultimately reaching up to 30-40’ tall. Terminal clusters (to 4” long) of mildly fragrant, pure white flowers with fringe-like petals bloom in late spring to early summer. Bloom appears about 2-3 weeks before that of C. virginicus. Plants are primarily dioecious (separate male and female plants), but some plants may have some perfect flowers. Male flowers are slightly showier. Female flowers (if fertilized) give way to clusters of olive-like fruits (each to 1/2”long) which ripen to a dark bluish black in late summer/fall and are a good food source for birds and wildlife. Lustrous, leathery leaves are ovate to elliptic and 4” long. Leaves on young plants have serrate margins. Leaves are bright green above and whitish-green plus downy beneath. Leaves turn yellow in fall (reportedly more attractive in northern areas). Exfoliating gray-brown bark is attractive in winter.
Genus name comes from the Greek words chion meaning snow and anthos meaning flower.
Retusus means rounded with a shallow notch at the apex, in reference to leaf shape.
No serious insect or disease problems. Some susceptibility to mites, scale and borers. Watch for leaf spots, canker and powdery mildew. Plants sold in commerce may not be identified as either male or female.
Grow in groups or as specimens in lawns or in shrub or woodland borders. Also may be sited near streams or ponds. Can be spectacular in full bloom.