How To Grow Chinese Fringetree (Chionanthus retusus) In Your Garden

Chionanthus retusus, commonly known as Chinese Fringe Tree, is a deciduous tree or shrub that is great for landscaping. It carries cloud-like clusters of white, fringe-like flowers that bloom in late spring to early summer.

This tree reaches a height and spread of around 10 to 20 feet (3 to 6 meters).

Chionanthus retusus tree in bloom
Chionanthus retusus photograph by TANAKA Juuyoh (田中十洋); CC.

Chinese Fringe Tree has a stunning display of flowers, and it carries glossy, dark green leaves that turn yellow in autumn. These features help to add year-round interest to a garden.

Gardener's love Chionanthus retusus for its striking looks and versatility in landscape design – it can be grown as a single specimen or in a shrub border.

This plant suited for USDA hardiness zones 5 through 9, and RHS hardiness ratings of H6 (hardy to -20°C). Although an Asian native, this tree is not considered invasive in the USA.

How to Grow Chionanthus retusus in the Garden

When choosing a location for Chionanthus retusus, it is best to opt for a spot that receives full sun to part shade.

Plants prefer a moist, fertile, and well-drained soil, but they are quite adaptable and can tolerate clay, loam, and sandy soil structures. As for soil pH, it can thrive in slightly acidic to slightly alkaline conditions.

Chinese Fringetree flower
Chinese Fringetree image by Surely Shirly; PD.

Planting is best done in early spring or fall, when the tree is dormant. Dig a hole twice as wide and about as deep as the root ball, next place the tree in the hole, and then backfill with soil. Water thoroughly after planting.

Regular watering is crucial during the first growing season to establish a strong root system.

Once it has become established, then Chinese Fringe Trees are moderately drought-tolerant, but will appreciate a watering during prolonged dry periods. Feed with a general-purpose fertilizer in early spring, before the new growth begins.

Pruning is not normally typically necessary, as Chionanthus retusus naturally grows into an attractive, rounded shape. However, if you desire to prune for size or shape, do so following blooming.

Be on the watch for pests such as scales and borers, and fungal diseases like powdery mildew or leaf spots. Generally, maintaining healthy growing conditions can prevent most of these problems.

Growing Chionanthus retusus into your garden can introduce an element of soft elegance to its setting. With the right conditions, this tree will reward you with a stunning display of fluffy, white blooms year after year.

Chinese Fringetree berries
Chinese Fringetree berries image by Alvin Kho; CC.

Quick Chionanthus retusus Growing and Care Guide

Scientific Name: Chionanthus retusus.

Common Names: Chinese Fringe Tree, Chinese Fringetree.

Growing Zone (USA / UK Hardiness): USDA Zones: 5-9.

Best Used For / Garden Location: Ornamental tree in lawns, near patios or in other sunny areas in the landscape.

Plant Details

Life Cycle / Plant Type: Perennial.

Plant Height: 10-20 ft (3-6 m).

Plant Spread: 10-20 ft (3-6 m).

Blooms: Late spring to early summer.

Flower Details: White, fragrant, fringe-like, borne in clusters.

Leaf Foliage: Green, ovate leaves turn yellow in fall.

Fruit: Oval, blue-black, olive-like fruits that ripen in late summer.

Growing Conditions and Location

Best Light Conditions: Full sun to part shade.

Suitable Soil Types: Moist, well-drained soils; can tolerate clay, loam, and sand.

Sowing / planting: Not applicable. Plant young trees in spring.

Germination time: Not applicable for trees.

Propagation: By seeds or semi-hardwood cuttings.

Plant Care: Water regularly; prune as necessary to maintain shape and remove dead branches.

Growing in pots and containers: Suitable for large pots or containers but will eventually need a spacious outdoor area.

Growing as a Houseplant: Not typically suitable as an indoor plant due to size and sunlight requirements.

Further Information

Miscellaneous: Attracts birds with its fruit. Tolerant of air pollution and urban conditions. Not known to be invasive.

Pests and diseases: Generally pest-free. Possible issues include scale, borers, and caterpillars.

Common Cultivars / Varieties: Chionanthus retusus 'Tokyo Tower' stands out for its columnar form and Chionanthus retusus 'China Snow' is known for its abundant blooms.

Family: Oleaceae, the Olive family.

Native: Native to China, Korea, and Japan.

References and Further Reading: Missouri Botanical Garden; Harvard arboretum; OSU landscape plants.

Common Questions

Does Chionanthus retusus make a good garden, landscaping plant?

Chionanthus retusus is an excellent choice for gardens and landscaping. It's admired for its striking white blooms in spring.

Is Chinese Fringetree fragrant?

Yes, the Chinese Fringetree is fragrant. Its abundant springtime flowers emit a delightful, sweet fragrance.

What is the perfect location to grow Chionanthus retusus?

It thrives in full sun to partial shade. It's adaptable to different soil types but prefers well-drained, fertile soil.

Is Chionanthus retusus invasive in the USA, if so in which states?

Chionanthus retusus is not thought invasive in any US states.

How do I remove Chionanthus retusus from my garden?

Removing a Chinese Fringetree involves cutting it down, grinding the stump, and ensuring all root systems are thoroughly removed. Given its size, professional removal may be the safest option.


Chinese Fringetree is a deciduous shrub or tree that is known for its fragrant white flowers that bloom in spring. It thrives in full sun to partial shade, in well-drained soil, delivering an impressive floral display.

I hope that you have enjoyed reading this guide on how to grow Chionanthus retusus. You may also enjoy the following Oleaceae growing guides: How to grow Olives, Star Jasmine, and Winter Jasmine plants in the garden.

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