There are two forms of the Stephanandra incisa on the market. ‘Cutleaf’ grows 4 to 7 feet high, and ‘Crispa’ grows 1 to 3 feet high. While related botanically, they serve different needs in the landscape.
Cutleaf is also knows as lace shrub. This native of Korea is a fast growing shrub that will quickly colonize a space. Branches that touch the ground form roots adding to the wide spread of this shrub. Cutleaf grows 4 to 7 feet high and 4 to 6 feet wide. It is home in Zones 4 to 7 and prefers a sunny location. It will stand up to some shade.
Cutleaf likes well-drained acidic soil that is nutrient rich. It will respond with yellowish white flowers in May and June. The new leaf growth is a bronze color that turns green. The show is in the autumn when the leaves turn shades of red, purple, and orange.
Cutleaf can be a good selection for naturalizing a mass planting that needs a medium high backdrop for other, shorter plants or for landscapes that are not formal in style. It will create a dense hedge and takes well to pruning. When planted in rows or groups, cutleaf provides standing privacy for screening.
Cutleaf can be propagated from both seeds and cuttings. It is best transplanted from a container grown specimen. The shrub needs protection from winter winds.
Crispa is the more commonly planted Stephanandra. A single shrub can spread up to 6 feet and appear higher in the middle and lower at the edges. Crispa branches will also root if they touch the ground. The shrub becomes a tangle of branches that create a pleasant border or groundcover. Crispa will also happily drape over a wall. Crispa prefers full sun and moist, well-drained soil with wind protection.
Perhaps because the plant is seen from above, Crispa has more visual appeal. The flowers are not showy, but they are pleasant from up close. The leaves look similar to maple leaves and turn to shades of yellow and orange in the autumn. The branches weave in and out among themselves and resemble a thicket when the leaves disappear for the winter.
Crispa is more easily accessible for thinning. The rooted suckers can be separated and removed in spring, autumn, or early winter. The shrub can be pruned after flowering.
Both Cutleaf and Crispa are relatively free from insect and disease problems. If grown in a garden, or as a border or hedge, there is some maintenance needed. Stephanandra is a reliable performer that fills space with three-season interest.