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Chinese fringetree

Chionanthus_retusus-tree-BFChinese fringe tree, Chionanthus retusus

Scientific Name

Chionanthus is from the Greek words chion (snow) and anthos (a flower) referring to the white flowers; retusus means notched at the tip referring to the leaves.

Common Name

Fringe tree is from the white, fringe-like flowers that bloom in early spring.


Chinese fringe tree is native to China, Korea, and Japan


Not native to Kentucky

Chioanthus retusus_flowerDESCRIPTION

Growth Habit and Form

Chinese fringe tree’s habit varies from a large, multi-stemmed, rounded to broad-rounded shrub to a small, rounded tree. It usually reaches 15 to 25 feet in height. The flowers, fruit, foliage and bark are highly ornamental. Plants are dioecious; the fruit will only occur on female plants.


Leaves are opposite, variable in shape, usually oval, sometimes obovate or almost round and 3 to 8 inches long. Leaves are lustrous dark green above, downy beneath and on the midrid.


Snow white, lightly fragrant flowers occur in 2- to 3-inch long and 2- to 4-inch wide clusters at the end of the current season’s growth. Soft, fleecy, snow-like blooms occur in May and June. Chinese fringe tree blooms 2 to 3 weeks before white fringe tree (Chionanthus virginicus).


Fruit are ovoid, 3/8- to ½-inch-long bluish drupe, which ripens in September through October. Chinese fringe tree is dioecious; the fruits occur only on female plants.


The bark is a handsome gray-brown and with maturity becomes ridged and furrowed.

Wild and Cultivated Varieties



Landscape Use

Chinese fringe tree is a spectacular specimen tree. Attractive flowers in spring, ornamental fruit in fall and handsome bark in winter create year-round interest. Chinese fringe tree may be used as a small street tree, in groupings, or in the back of a shrub border. The species is tolerant to air pollution.

Hardiness Zone

Hardy in USDA Zones 6 to 8.

Growth Rate

Chinese fringe tree grows slowly.

Cultivation and Propagation Information

Chinese fringe tree prospers in full sun, but will stand partial shade. It withstands acid or high pH, sandy loam or clay soils. Propagation by seed is difficult.

Diseases and Insects

Generally disease-free; occasional mildew and scale.

Wildlife Considerations

Chinese fringe trees provide fair homes and cover for wildlife.

Maintenance Practices

Chinese fringe tree needs minimal maintenance.


Chinese fringe tree was introduced into cultivation in 1845