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Chionanthus retusus (photo courtesy of Saxon Holt/PhotoBotanic)
Chionanthus retusus (photo courtesy of Saxon Holt/PhotoBotanic)

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Zone
Zones 2-6, 15-24, 28-41

Chionanthus virginicus

Fringe Tree
Oleaceae
Deciduous, Shrubs, Trees

CHIONANTHUS

Spectacular flowering plants requiring some winter chill. The common name (fringe tree) refers to the narrow, fringelike white petals on flowers that are borne in impressive, ample, lacy clusters. Male and female plants are separate; males have larger flowers. If both plants are present, females produce clusters of small, dark, olivelike fruit favored by birds. Broad leaves turn bright to deep yellow in fall.

Good drainage is required. Minimal pruning needed. Resist most pests and diseases, though fungal leaf spot and powdery mildew may occur.

Chionanthus virginicus (photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, Inc.)
Chionanthus virginicus (photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, Inc.)

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Chionanthus virginicus

Native to the southeastern U.S. Leaves and flower clusters are often twice as big as those of Chionanthus retusus. Lightly fragrant, greenish white flowers appear by the plant’s third year. Can reach 30 ft. tall, but in gardens usually grows to 12–20 ft. high with equal spread. Habit varies from very shrubby and open to more treelike. In Zones 2–6, where it grows very slowly (the most you can hope for is 12 ft. in 10 years), it is best used as an airy shrub; blooms profusely when just 2–3 ft. tall. In those zones, it is one of the last deciduous plants to leaf out in spring.

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