Affects of Winter on Loropetalum Chinense Suzanne ("Suzanne Fringe Flower")
I live in Bethesda, MD (Zone 7a) planted five new Loropetalum Chinense Suzanne ("Suzanne fringe flower") shrubs last April on the eastern side of my house. They all did well during spring, summer, and fall. Now in mid-January most of the leaves - and on a few plants essentially all of the leaves - are brittle, brown, curled up, and appear dead. This winter has not been severe, although there have been a few stretches of low temperatures in the teens with some days in the single digits. Certainly it has seemed even colder with the wind chill factor. I checked under the bark and there is green on most of the tree, suggesting to me it is alive, except the branch as you get to the leaves. Can you tell me what is going on? Is it just the leaves that are dead? Was it the cold? If so, I'm confused, because the plant is rated for regions 7-10 and there were only a few cold days. Is there anything I can or should do to keep it alive until the spring? If all of the leaves are dead and they do come back in the spring, how will they look? When I trim away what is dead, will they just be very small? Will this happen every cold winter or will they do better once the roots are established?
This is a shrub that you don't see too often around here for good reason. This winter has been extremely cold, compared to the past few years. And the cold has been over several days and nights. (All it takes is one dip below a certain temperature to injure or kill plants.)
Leaf loss is not surprising on this shrub. It does much better farther south. However, since the branches still show green, apparently the branches are alive. Even if the branches die back, it should regenerate well from the roots, assuming it got plenty of water last year and its roots established well.
We really can't say how it will fare. There is a lot of winter ahead of us. Next spring, give it time to leaf out before you prune off any winter dieback.
Thanks! Is there anything I can or should do now to help? Will the plans be more hardy to the cold next winter, assuming they survive this one?
Plants can't change in terms of winter hardiness. That one is at the upper range of where it can survive.
That said, marginally hardy plants can have better chances of survival if they are planted in protected areas, or if you are able to mulch them well, keep them well watered right up until the ground freezes, and/or build a shelter out of chicken wire or stakes and burlap and stuff it with some type of insulator, like straw or dried leaves.