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Photinia is a popular evergreen shrub with glossy green leaves, white flowers in flattened flowerheads and young red shoots. The best known of the photinias is Photinia × fraseri ‘Red Robin’ which is often planted as a specimen shrub or as a fast-growing, dense, evergreen hedge.
Photinia grows best in fertile, moist, well-drained soil in sun or partial shade in a sheltered position. The young shoots can become scorched by cold or drying winds and late frosts if grown in an exposed position.
Photinia is tolerant of most soils, even clay as long as it has been improved by incorporating well-rotted compost or manure. Most species will suit either acid or alkaline conditions, but P. beauverdiana and P. villosa are not happy in a chalky soil, needing neutral to acid soil conditions.
Photinias require minimal pruning, but will benefit from the occasional trim in spring and summer to keep the shape of the plant under control. Avoid trimming after mid-August, since any new growth would be vulnerable to autumn frosts.
Follow the advice in the pruning evergreen shrubs profile, but also note the following:
The best method for propagating photinia cultivars, such as those of P. × fraseri including ‘Canivily’ AGM and ‘Red Robin’, or P. 'Redstart' is by softwood cuttings in early summer or semi-ripe cuttings in summer and autumn.
You can also grow species, such as P. villosa and P. davidiana, from seed, sowing in spring after stratification. Chilling may improve germination.
Below are a few popular photinias. For lists of other large or very large evegreen shrubs browse the RHS Plant Selector.
RHS Plant Finder
Photinias are usually trouble-free, but can suffer from a number of common problems:
This is considered to be a physiological problem (i.e. not caused by any pest or disease). The purple-brown spotting on the foliage is typical of a plant under stress. Recently planted semi-mature specimens are particularly prone, though many photinias are not fully hardy in the UK and any can suffer after cold, wet winters.
To avoid this type of damage, plant in a sheltered spot preferably against a wall or fence. Cold winds and/or frosty conditions can also damage foliage, again causing leaf spotting if adverse conditions are prolonged. Feeding with a general-purpose fertiliser such as Vitax Q4 or Growmore in spring or early summer should encourage healthy re-growth. If the ground is heavy, incorporate organic matter to aid with drainage.
The damaged foliage usually falls away naturally in spring/early summer, sometimes with heavy leaf losses. These losses are replaced by new growth in summer, but plants may become thinner in the centre and the only way to make them denser is to prune. Thankfully, photinias respond well to pruning, so cutting back some of the stems in early May/June will encourage younger, more leafy shoots.
Brown leaves on woody plantsHedges: selectionShrubs: pruning evergreensTrees and shrubs: planting
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