Photinia planting and care, including the Red Robin


Photinia amazes everyone with their bright red leaves.

Photinia key facts:

Name – Photinia x fraseri
Family – Rosaceae
Height – 3 to 10 feet (1 to 3 m)

Exposure: full sun
Soil: ordinary

Foliage: evergreen  –  Flowering: spring

Planting, pruning and care are steps that help blooming and growth for your Photinia.

Planting Photinia

Hardiness: 5°F or -15°C, zone 7+ (USA) or H5+ (UK)

Photinia loves the sun. Note that it also needs a lot of water, especially in summer.Photinia planting

  • Photinia loves sunny or very lightly shaded places.
  • It adapts to most types of soil, except for chalky soil which it doesn’t like.
  • It’s a fast grower.
  • Plan ahead: a mature photinia is over 10 feet tall (3 meters). Don’t give it too small a space.
  • Int he picture above/right, these are planted closer together for a low hedge.

Planting in fall

It is the best season to plant. Photinia are best planted in fall to promote root development.

In fall, photinia won’t have any red leaves: they’re all green by this time!

The best time is November; however, you can plant as early as September and as late as December. Just make sure not to plant when it freezes.

Planting in spring and summer

Photinia can be planted in spring and even in summer if purchased in pots.

In this case, water often: the shrubs’ needs are higher, and it doesn’t yet have many roots.

Photinia hedge

Photinia hedgePhotinia is great for evergreen hedges. Long-lasting leaves and fast growth rate mean privacy is guaranteed within a few years.

For a more ornamental impact, alternate photinia with other beautiful evergreen shrubs: Abelia, Forsythia, silverberry and the occasional laurel tree.

  • For a 6-foot hedge (1.8m), plant each photinia 3 feet (1m) from the next.
  • Fast growing photinia is ideal for all types of hedge, even topiary.

Multiplying Photinia

It is possible to propagate Photinia from cuttings in summer.

  • Photinia propagated through cuttings, hundreds of pots.Collect stems that are 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm) long.
  • Remove lower pairs of leaves. Keep only the topmost one or two pairs.
  • It is possible to dip the cuttings in powdered rooting agents.
  • Plant them upright in special cutting soil mix.
  • Put the Photinia cuttings near light, but not in direct sunlight.
  • Keep substrate a little moist.
  • Make sure the cuttings won’t freeze in winter.
  • Transplant to a slightly larger pot in the following spring.

Photinia varieties

Photinia careThe most famous variety is Photinia ‘Red Robin’. Other varieties are just as beautiful, but harder to find: ‘Red Tip’, ‘Little Red Robin’, ‘Pink Crispy’, ‘Pink Marble’ (last two have variegated leaves)…

Pruning and care for Photinia

Photinia are easy shrubs to care for, especially when well settled in.

Pruning and trimming

Pruning a short photinia hedgePruning Photinia is recommended twice a year. Once is after spring blooming. After that, prune again after growth in fall so that the shrub can be balanced or its size reduced.

It is also possible to prune ‘Red Robin’ Photinia at the end of winter. Pruning at the end of winter will give you many more red leaves, but you might not get flowers.

Photinia can be shaped as you wish: cones, spheres, columns and other topiary…

  • First, thin older branches to trigger growth of new shoots. Also clear the center so that light can reach it.
  • The more you prune, the faster it grows.
  • Frequent and drastic pruning renews growth and makes fresh red leaves appear.
  • Read also: how to prune shrubs

Note: Photinia will grow into a tree if not pruned. It can reach up to 20 feet (6 meters). In this respect, it’s similar to cherry laurel.

Fertilizer: grow a magnificent ‘Red Robin’ Photinia

Photinia red robin shrubs as part of a mixed hedge with cherry laurel and hawthorn.Adding all-purpose fertilizer in spring will boost growth and make the leafage magnificent.

  • Red Robin does great in pots. However, another variety, “Little Red Robin”, will do better: it won’t grow as tall and is more manageable.
  • In pots, remember to topdress with ripe compost every year in spring and fall.
  • Instead of topdressing, give your shrub a dose of weedy tea every month during the growing phase.

Diseases, pests, and problems with Photinia

Although Photinia is very resilient and won’t often get diseased, sometimes the following may occur.

Photinia not blooming

If you have a photinia not bearing flowers, there are usually two reasons. Sometimes both are at play.

  • A hedge partially formed with photinia, under a large tree.Pruning was performed at the end of winter, before the blooming – in this case, flower buds were cut off. Try to prune and trim your photinia after the blooming in spring. If you need to prune a second time to keep the shrub small and tidy, do it in fall before winter .
  • Exposure and lack of sunlight – a photinia shrub that is mostly growing in shade won’t bear many flowers, sometimes to the point of not bearing any at all. If under the shade of a taller tree, try thinning out branches of the tall tree. That way, more light reaches the photinia shrub.

Black spots on photinia leaves

Photinia leaves curling and blistering

  • In rare instances, your Photinia may catch leaf curl.
  • Treat leaf curl on Photinia just as you would treat peach leaf curl.

Sudden death and root rot

Photinia is one of the many woody plants that may fall victim to armillaria root rot. If the shrub shows signs of decline (wilting) and dies suddenly the following year, this might be the culprit.

Learn more about Photinia

Photinia is hybridized by man. It’s the result of crossing two different species. Developed by breeders in New Zealand, they came to the West around 25 years ago.

This red-leaved shrub is an ornamental shrub, in beds and in hedges. However, you can also plant it as a standalone.

Red and yellow landscaping with photinia and forsythiaAbundant leaves quickly make the shrub opaque, which makes it one of the most commonly planted evergreen hedge shrubs.

Its main feature is that its leaves switch colors: deep red for young leaves, then they slowly turn green as they mature.

Landscaping with photinia

This magnificent shrub fits perfectly into any hedge. Try out combinations with many other species: butterfly bush, viburnum, cotinus

→ Shown here with forsythia.

It’s also very resistant to sea spray and will do great as a coastal garden plant, together with sea orache and silverberry, for instance.

Read also on shrubs

Smart tip about Photinia

Photinia flowers are a great source of nectar and pollen for bees, plant one as a standalone to attract beneficial insects to your garden! Be careful to only prune your photinia after it flowers, in Spring.

Images: adobestock: Saratm, CC BY 2.0: utahwildflowers, CC BY-SA 2.0: Leonora Enking, Michael Coghlan, Amanda Slater; own work: Rosalyn & Gaspard Lorthiois; Pixabay: an anonymous photographer, Julia Casado; shutterstock: Anna Nel, Fishermanittiologico