There are two types of fringe trees. The Chinese fringe tree is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture zones 3 through 9 while the C. virginicus is hardy in U. S. Department of Agriculture zones 2 through 6.
Fringe trees are a deciduous shrub or small tree which means that the leaves fall off in the fall. this tree grows between 12 and 20 feet high, with an equal spread. the fringe tree is referred to by several different names like the white fringe tree, old man’s beard and Grancy Greybeard.
In May, the fringe tree has clusters of fragrant, creamy white flowers that are 4 to 8 inches long. There are male and female trees, but sometimes you may find a tree that has both kinds of flowers. The only difference between the flowers is the flowers on the male trees will have longer petals and showier blooms. Later in the season, the female plants produce small purple/blue berries. These berries are loved by all kinds of birds.
If you want to propagate the fringe tree, you can do so by gathering the berries. The propagation of the fringe tree is slightly different than other trees because the seeds need to go through a double stratification process or double dormancy. Seeds planted in the fall will not germinate until the second spring. Patience is a must.
In the months of July to September, harvest the mature berries when they turn purple. You’ll want to collect them before they fall from the tree and before the birds eat them all. Soak the berries in a bowl of warm water for 24 hours. This will help you to remove the pulpy flesh around the seed. If any seeds float on top of the water, toss them away because this means that the seeds are not viable.
Just before you remove the flesh from the seeds, p ut some peatmoss in a bowl of water. Allow the peatmoss to soak the water up like a sponge. Wring out the excess water from the peatmoss, by squeezing it in your hands.
Prepare the Seeds
Remove the flesh from the seeds. It should remove easily by pinching the berries between your finger and thumb. Rinse the seeds in fresh water.
Place some of the dampened peat moss in a closeable plastic bag. Place the seeds on top and then cover the seed with the remaining dampened peatmoss. If you have many seeds, layer them between the peatmoss, instead of piling the seeds all together.
Place the bag in a location that remains 68° to 72° Fahrenheit. This step is the warm stratification process. During this stage, the embryo or radicle begins to develop into a root, but the stem does not form. Keep the seed in warm stratification for 3 to 5 months. Check the peatmoss to make sure it stays moist. Don’t allow it to dry out or the seed will die. When the peatmoss feels dry, spray it with water. The peatmoss should remain moist, but not soggy or the seeds will rot.
At the end of this time, place the baggie into the refrigerator. They now need to go through cold stratification. Leave them in the refrigerator for 2 months. Check the moisture content of the peatmoss. You’ll need to keep it moist as you did during the warm stratification process.
Mix equal amounts of perlite, sand and compost together. Cover the drainage holes with a coffee filter and fill one 4-inch pot for each seed you want to plant. Thoroughly wet the planting medium, allowing the excess water to drain away.
Planting the Seeds
Take the seeds from the refrigerator. Nick or chip the seed with a sharp knife. This promotes a faster germination. Place one seed in the center of the pot. Push the seed into the soil with your finger until it is 1/2 inch deep or to the depth of your first knuckle.
Place the pots into a tray for easier carrying. Find a window that receives bright light, but do not place them in direct sunlight. Keep the soil moist, but never soggy. It can take three to ten weeks for the stems to break through the seed coat.
Grow the fringe tree in a bright window. Water to keep the soil moist. In the spring, after all danger of frost is past and it is 8 inches tall, transplant this tree into it’s permanent location.
Trees and Shrubs: Growing Fringe Tree Chionanthus Virginicus
Clemson Cooperative Extension: Fringe Tree
North Caarolina State University: Fringe Tree