Authors as Published

Alex X. Niemiera, Associate Professor, Department of Horticulture


Foliage: About 5 inch long elliptic leaves; deciduous
Height: About 12 feet tall
Spread: About 12 feet wide
Shape: Large shrub/small tree form that varies with individual; form ranges from bushy to more open to more tree-like

Main features

White fringetree is a slow-growing large shrub or small tree (depending on how and if one prunes it) with a very showy display of fleecy white flowers in late April/early May. Female plants bear pendulous clusters of dark blue fruit that are nice upon close inspection. This species is quite tough and tolerates drought as well as wet soils; will grow in full sun or part shade.

Plant Needs

Zone: 4 to 9
Light: Full sun to part shade
Moisture: Wet to dry
Soil type: Most soils
pH range: Acid


Fringetree is suitable as a specimen plant (due to its spectacular flower show), in borders, in mass, and any where a small deciduous tree is appropriate. Most un-pruned plants will be large shrubs; one can remove lower limbs to develop a tree form. The flower show is especially noticeable and showy when planted in front of a dark background such as dark-leaved conifers or evergreen hollies.


No special care is needed. Fringetree can be developed into a small tree form by removing lower limbs/foliage; this species will be shrub-like (multi-stem, foliage and branches to near ground level) without pruning.

Additional Information

A few cultivars are available in the trade. These are:

  • ‘Emerald Knight’ upright form with long dark green and glossy leaves
  • Prodigy® rounded habit; very floriferous
  • ‘Spring Fleecing’ a glossy narrow leaf form; very floriferous

Chinese fringetree, Chionanthus retusus, is an attractive small tree that produces very showy fleecy flowers in late April/May. Leaves are glossy and leathery; they may be roundish or elliptic depending on origin (foliage of Northern Type is elliptic and Southern Type is roundish). This species is adaptable in zones 6 to 8.

Virginia Cooperative Extension materials are available for public use, reprint, or citation without further permission, provided the use includes credit to the author and to Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, and Virginia State University.

Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Edwin J. Jones, Director, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; M. Ray McKinnie, Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State University, Petersburg.

Publication Date

November 3, 2010