Wow! I walked around the corner to the sunny side of our property and there it was – my fringe tree in full bloom. I stopped dead in my tracks and gazed at it. I planted it almost five years ago when it was quite small and here it was, now six feet tall and wide and looking the most spectacular I have ever seen it.
Fringe trees, botanically named Chionanthus virginicus, are native to the eastern U.S. where they are found growing along stream banks, on moist hillsides and in woodlands. In our gardens, plant them in moist, well-drained soil. Slightly acidic soil is preferred, but fringe trees are quite adaptable to our clay-filled, alkaline soils. They are, however, not drought tolerant and require watering in sustained periods without rainfall.
Fringe trees can be small trees or multi-stemmed large shrubs and grow about 15 feet tall and almost as wide. They perform in both full sun and part shade, but most impressive flowering occurs in full sun. And while they are attractive in three seasons, their unique and delightful flowers is the reason I have one in my garden.
In late May or early June, mildly fragrant, snow white flowers hang in a 6- to 8-inch long ‘fringe’ from branches – truly a sight to behold.
Fringe trees are dioecious, meaning they are either male or female. The flowers on male trees are larger, but female trees produce pretty, dark blue berries in late summer. It is not uncommon, however, for fringe trees to also have some perfect (having both male and female parts) flowers.
I must have a male tree with some perfect flowers. I enjoy its magnificent flowers and am also entertained by the birds devouring the small number of berries produced.
Fringe trees rarely require pruning but if they do need a nip or tuck, it should be done right after they finish flowering because they begin to set buds for next year’s flowers soon after. Pruning done in late summer or fall (or early spring, for that matter) removes buds of those fantastical fringy flowers.
The foliage of fringe trees turns yellow in fall – pretty, but not a showstopper. They are rarely bothered by insects or diseases and even get along with black walnut trees.
My fringe tree is planted at the back of a long deep perennial border, most of which is in full sun. One would also be pretty softening the corner of a two-story home, planted near a pond where its flowers could be reflected in the water or as a specimen in a small yard. Its fruit is not messy so planting near a patio is another option.
If you don’t already have a fringe tree, consider planting one this year. I am heading back to the garden to admire mine before its flowers fade and fall.
Garden with me!