Photinia – planting and caring for this red-leaf shrub


Photinia stand out with their scarlet and red-colored leaves.

Photinia facts to know

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 caring for them are steps that help enhance blooming and growth of your Photinia.

Planting Photinia

PhotiniaPhotinia love sun, are hardy (down to 5°F (-15°C)) but also need a lot of water, especially in summer when it is hot and dry.

  • Photinia love sunny or very lightly shaded places.
  • They adapt to most types of soil, except for chalky soil which they don’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.

Planting in fall

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

The best time is November; however, you can plant as early as September and as late as December. Just make sure you’re avoiding freezing days.

Avoid planting during the rest of winter.

Planting in spring and summer

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

In that case, water regularly because the shrubs’ needs are higher when not in fall and winter.

Photinia hedge

Photinia hedgePhotinia is very well suited to setting up an evergreen hedges. The long-lasting leaves and fast growth rate mean your privacy will be guaranteed in just 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 hedges.

Multiplying Photinia

It is possible to propagate your own Photinia through 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, keeping only the topmost one or two pairs.
  • It is possible to dip the cuttings in powdered rooting agents.
  • Plant cuttings in special cutting soil mix.
  • Put the Photinia cuttings near light, but not in direct sunlight.
  • Keep substrate a little moist.
  • Ensure that the cuttings can’t freeze in winter.
  • Transplant to a slightly larger pot in the following spring.

The 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 are variegated)…

Photinia care is easy, the only important thing to guarantee blooming is pruning and exposure.

Pruning and caring for Photinia

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

Pruning a short photinia hedgePruning Photinia is recommended twice a year.

Once is after spring blooming and then again after fall growth 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 this particular time will spur the growing of red leaves, but it may impair blooming.

Photinia can be shaped freely. You might see some shaped into cones, balls, or columns and other topiary…

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

Note: Photinia will keep growing if not pruned. It can reach heights of 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 is a cultivar that also does great in pots. However, its sibling the “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 in 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 to this. Sometimes both are at cause.

  • A hedge partially formed with photinia, under a large tree.Pruning was performed at the end of winter, before the blooming – in this case, trimming has cut off  flower buds. 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 the branches of the tree out. This ensures light reaches the photinia shrub.

Black spots on photinia leaves

Photinia leaves curling and blistering

  • In rare instances, your Photinia may have contracted 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 are shrubs that were hybridized by man and are the result of crossing two different species. Developed in New Zealand, they were introduced to the West around 25 years ago.

Shrub with red leaves in springThe red-leaved shrub often appears as ornamental shrubs, in beds and in hedges. However, you can also plant it as a standalone. Abundant leaves quickly make the shrub opaque, which makes it one of the most commonly planted evergreen shrubs in hedges.

Their main feature is that leaves are consistently of two colors: deep red for young leaves that slowly turn green as they mature. They make your hedges and shrub beds stand out with that touch of color.

Landscaping with photinia

Red and yellow landscaping with photinia and forsythiaThis magnificent shrub fits perfectly into any hedge and combines very will with many other species: butterfly bush, viburnum, cotinus, … Shown here, with blooming 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, Pixabay: Julia Casado, shutterstock: Anna Nel