Loropetalum (Loropetalum chinense), sometimes called Chinese fringe-flower, has become a staple for many landscapes over the last thirty years. With many varieties to choose from, loropetalum can bring a vibrant pop of pink in the form of blooms, a deep red or purple leaf color, as well as a clean white and green flower and leaf combination. Varieties can also vary significantly in size, going from a dwarf form only spreading a few feet to larger ones that can be limbed up into tree forms. These variations in size and color have certainly helped loropetalum gain momentum in the landscape, but when it comes down to it, a plant, like loropetalum, with few pest or disease problems, is a diamond in the rough!
However, recently bacterial gall of loropetalum (caused by Pseudomonas savastanoi) has popped up as a fairly significant issue. Beginning as small knots, or galls, on stems and twigs and then progressing into larger, dark, irregular-shaped rough callus areas. The disease can progress rapidly under warm wet conditions and is usually spread by water movement and contaminated tools. If left alone, it will eventually infect and kill the entire plant.
There used to be four beautiful loropetalums in my home landscape, but I am now down to one! Over the years, I had pruned out dead limbs from one plant without thinking too much of it, giving natural shape to it and the others as I went. Unknowingly, my pruners and I were serving as excellent vectors of the disease. When the second plant kicked the bucket, I looked a little closer and sent a sample to the Clemson Plant & Pest Diagnostic Clinic, where my suspicions were confirmed… Bacterial Gall.
If you notice dieback on your loropetalums, I highly suggest you take a deeper look. Inspect all plants you bring into your landscape closely. This disease is typically introduced from new plant material. If you find galls or callus areas on your plants, remove and properly dispose of the entire plant immediately. Unfortunately, there is no fungicide that will stop, fix or cure this disease.