How to Grow: White Fringe Tree

Listen to this podcast on how to grow and care for the white fringe tree or Chionanthus in the landscape.


I love the common name of the tree Chionanthus viginicus. Old Man’s Beard is a good description of the white flowers that bloom in May and June. It’s one of the later leaving-out and blooming spring shrubs and trees.

The fragrant flowers grow in six- to eight-inch-long clusters, covering the tree when in bloom.

They seem to droop off the stems, like a white beard.

It’s also call the fringe tree — not for its edginess, but for the serrated nature of the blossoms.

Fringe trees are sometimes called the best native tree nobody grows. They’re native to the eastern United States and are a great small tree or large shrub in the landscape. They grow 10 to 20 feet tall and often have multiple trunks.

While fringe trees grow and flower best in full- to part-sun locations on moist, slightly acidic soils, they’re forgiving of other soil conditions as well.

Because of their mature size and beauty, they make good trees for growing under power lines, mixed in a shrub border with other natives, such as Amelanchier and redbud, or as a specimen plant in the lawn.

Fringe trees can be male or female. The male trees have showier flowers, but the female trees produce blue-black, olive-like berries in late summer that birds love. You generally can’t tell if the tree is male or female in the nursery, so you might want to get a few trees to insure you get berries.

Come fall, the leaves turn golden. Fringe trees require little maintenance once established, and grow well in Zone 5 and warmer locations.

Excerpted from the Connecticut Garden Journal.

Go here for a video on how to plant a tree