Red tip photinia, also known as Fraser's photinia, gets its name from the red-colored leaves that grow on the tips of new branches. This plant grows very fast, and is suitable for creating privacy hedges or wind blocks, besides adding an element of color to increase the appeal of a garden. It also produces beautiful white flowers and fruits that are favored by many birds.
Gardening TipIf the conditions in your garden are unsuitable for growing red tip photinias, you can make use of Burford Chinese hollies, Koehne hollies, or Emily Bruner hollies. You can also use Japanese cryptomeria or Japanese ternstroemia plants, as all these plants come in a similar size and have similar foliage.
Growing this plant is easy, and it is a robust variety that is resistant to most diseases. However, a fungus called 'entomosporium' is a big threat. If you manage to keep this disease away from your photinias, these plants will be an asset to your outdoors for a long time to come. Let us look at the planting procedure for red tip shrubs.
- The red tip photinia grows well in the USDA hardiness zones 7 - 9. So, make sure that your locality falls under this category. The best time to plant them is during fall, which will eventually get good growth during spring.
- Choose a spot that gets ample sunlight, although a partially shaded place will do too. This area should also be well-ventilated.
- The soil should preferably be loamy or partial clay. However, if the soil in your garden is heavy clay, around 50% of organic compost should be mixed with the soil in that area.
- You will normally get your potted photinia plants from a garden center or nursery. The other alternative is to find a healthy root cutting.
- Dig a hole that is two times as wide and deep as the pot. However, if you are planting a root cutting, then the hole needs to be around 15 inches deep.
- Mixing organic compost with clay soil at this point is a good idea. If you are planting more than one photinia, make sure that there is spacing between each hole, so that there is at least a gap of 6 feet between each shrub, as they tend to spread their foliage a lot.
- Carefully take the plant out of the pot and place it in the hole, in such a way that the soil from the pot is at ground level. For a root cutting, the point where the stem and root come together should be at ground level. Fill the rest of the hole with more soil and compost.
- Water the plants well at the base. Don't wet the foliage, to avoid diseases. Water the plants once a week during spring and fall. However, if your locality is in an extremely warm area, you will need to water the plant throughout the year.
- The red tip photinia plant doesn't require fertilizers unless the soil quality is poor. If you must use fertilizers, use an organic slow-release variety.
When to Trim
Pruning is required regularly, at least once a year, to maintain the desired shape and size of the plants, because photinias have a growth rate of more than a foot each year, eventually reaching a height of more than 20 feet and a width of 10 feet. Pruning is ideally done after the flowers have completely faded. Loppers with long handles and garden clippers are the best tools for this purpose. Thin out the center of the plant to increase the circulation of air. If your plant is overgrown, cut it to the ground just before winter. You will find new growth when spring arrives. It is important that you never shear a red tip photinia. Instead, you should only prune individual twigs and branches. This will keep the dreaded leaf spot disease from affecting your plant. If you must shear your plants, make sure you do so in summer, when the heat will reduce the chances of fungi spreading from one plant to another. It is also a good practice to sterilize your pruning tools in a bleach-and-water solution.
How to Propagate
Propagation is very easy. Ideally, this process should be started during the summer.
- Take 10-inch long stem cuttings from the tender and young tips of the shrubs. Remove the leaves from the bottom part of these cuttings.
- Plant them in a large container filled with a mix of loam, potting soil, sand, and peat moss.
- Keep the container in a shaded place which receives indirect sunlight.
- Light watering once a week through fall and winter will make sure that the young saplings are well-rooted. You will be able to transplant them when spring arrives.
- The method mentioned above is the best choice while attempting to propagate this plant. However, you can also plant the seeds obtained from the fruits, even though this is much more difficult to maintain during the sapling stage.
Ordinarily, a healthy red tip photinia plant has a lifespan of more than 50 years. However, there are a few diseases and pests that can drastically affect this beautiful plant.
- If you find spots and blotches appearing on the leaves, it is a symptom of the entomosporium leaf spot fungal infection. One can also notice black specks of spore-producing bodies. In severe cases, leaves fall off excessively, eventually leading to death of the plant. Prevention has a better chance of working than any cure.
- Look out for any sign of leaf spot while buying your plant. Good spacing between plants and keeping water away from the foliage can help in preventing this condition. Regular raking of dead leaves in the garden is also important. Cut off all infected leaves and branches in winter, and clean up all fallen debris and discard them properly. You will need to apply an appropriate fungicide during springtime. Also, regular pruning to create ventilation within the plant will reduce the chances of this infection. As a last resort, you may have to replace the infected plant with a different species that is resistant to leaf spot. The best choice would be a Chinese photinia, which is similar to the red tip, but has a duller copper red color to its leaves.
- Red tip photinias are also susceptible to aphids, fireblight, caterpillars, mites, scales, fruit-tip moths, and mildew. Appropriate fungicides and insecticides can help cure these conditions.
- If you notice yellow or dead leaves in abundance, it is possible that the plant is dying. Dying red tip photinias can be saved by stopping the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. You also need to make sure that you are not over-watering the plant, as root damage is common. Poke deep holes around the plant with a metal rod and fill them with a mixture of compost, lava sand, cornmeal, greensand, shale, and molases. Usually, this treatment can bring a dying plant back to good health.