Indian hawthorns can thrive in a wide range of temperatures and produce attractive foliage and flowers year-round. Be aware of attracting deer if you plant it outside.
Indian Hawthorn Overview
Indian Hawthorn Quick Facts
|Origin||China, Japan, Korea|
|Scientific Name:||Rhaphiolepis indica|
|Common Names||Indian hawthorn, Hong Kong hawthorn, Snow Maiden|
|Watering||Tolerant of moderate drought|
|Pests||Deer, thrips, aphids, scale, vine weevil|
Varieties of Indian Hawthorn
The common Indian hawthorn is the scientifically named Rhaphiolepis umbellata, which has white flowers and is reliant on mild climates to survive year-round. A similar variety of Indian hawthorn is the Rhaphiolepis indica, which is able to tolerate frost and produces flowers in white or pink. There are also several hybrids of these Indian hawthorn plants with both care and visual variations.
This common Indian hawthorn can be recognized by its green leathery leaves with rounded edges. The star-shaped flowers it produces are always white. It is a more tender species than the similar Rhaphiolepis indica.
This Indian hawthorn is differentiated by its serrated foliage, and flowers that appear in both pink and white. It can survive in colder climates than the more common Indian hawthorn.
Rhaphiolepis umbellata “Snow White”
This smaller variety of Indian hawthorn grows to be up to three feet tall and four feet wide. Its flowers are a crisp white, a stark contrast against the dark green foliage, which transforms to a bronze shade in the autumn.
Rhaphiolepis indica “Little Pinkie”
This variety produces pink flowers and is able to bloom twice a year, in both summer and fall. It can grow to a height of two feet, and its foliage is gray-green. The berries are such a deep blue that they can be mistaken for black.
Rhaphiolepis x 'Montic'
This Indian hawthorn hybrid is unusual in that it grows to great heights, up to 24 feet tall and ten feet wide. It blooms in spring with creamy pink flowers.
Indian Hawthorn Care Tips
As a young plant you will need to water the Indian hawthorn generously, but once a strong root system has formed, the plant will be tolerant of moderate drought conditions. Always water this plant at soil level to avoid wetting the leaves, as Indian hawthorn are particularly susceptible to leaf spot, a fungal disease that thrives in moist conditions and on damp foliage.
These plants thrive in full sun but will tolerate some shade, preferably in the afternoon. Indian hawthorns do not like to be transplanted and can react badly if you attempt to dig them up and move them, so plan ahead when positioning your plant and ensure it is in the sunniest spot in your garden. If the plant does not get enough light, it can become stretched and gangly looking in its efforts to search out the light, destroying the neat and compact form that the plant is famed for.
Due to its small size, the Indian hawthorn works well as a container plant, and the benefit of this is that you can easily move the plant to a different area of your garden if you find that the original position doesn’t provide the plant with enough light.
This evergreen shrub maintains its foliage all year long, with the deep green leaves becoming tinged with purple throughout winter. The Indian hawthorn does rely on mild climates to survive the winter, where deep freezes are unlikely to occur. It can tolerate temperatures as low as around 5º F, but any lower than this will see the plant die back to the ground. It grows well all year round in southern climates and is tolerant of high temperatures going up to the mid ’90s.
Indian hawthorns can be propagated from stem cuttings. This is ideally done in autumn during the plant’s dormant period. To prepare the plant for cutting, water it generously the previous evening, and then proceed with cutting the following morning. This will ensure that the stems are well-hydrated and make for more successful propagation.
Select a stem which is approximately a quarter-inch in diameter, with soft leafy growth at the tip. The cutting will need to be between six and eight inches long, with all of the lower leaves removed. Once you have prepared your cutting, you can prepare a pot filled with a moist growing medium such as peat and compost. Create a hole in the soil to a depth of three or four inches, and dip the raw end of your cutting in rooting hormone before inserting into the hole in the soil. Firm up the soil around the cutting to secure it, then place it in a warm shaded spot and maintain moist conditions.
After four to six weeks, your cutting should have rooted. You can check this has happened by gently pulling on the stem to feel for resistance. After roots have formed, wait a few more weeks for roots to develop further before transplanting the cutting into a larger pot. Select a pot one or two inches wider, where the plant can live in light shade throughout the summer. It can be planted into its permanent spot the following autumn, either directly into the ground or in a container pot. The next spring, it should be in full sun.
Indian hawthorns do not require pruning and are often left to their own devices to form their natural mound shapes. However, if you wish, you can prune them into a specific shape, such as a ball or a hedgerow when planted alongside other Indian hawthorns. If you do undertake pruning on this plant, it should be done after the summer flowers are spent, so as not to remove any of the growth on which next year’s blooms will be produced.
The flowers of this plant grow in clusters of at least three inches across. Each individual bloom grows to just under an inch across, with five petals that are mildly fragrant. The flowers appear in late spring and are typically white in color, though some cultivars will produce pink blooms. In late summer, the plant produces berries that are deep purple or blue-black and prove to be very popular among wildlife (University of Arkansas- Division of Agriculture Research and Extension).
Common Pests and Diseases
Indian hawthorn is popular for deer, and it may be best to avoid planting this in your garden if deer are a persistent problem. Other pests this plant may attract include thrips, aphids, black vine weevil, scale, and rose beetles. Discourage these pests by using organic neem oil spray as a safe alternative to insecticide. If you notice a pest problem, then treat it immediately to prevent a heavy infestation occurring. Different pests will respond to different treatments, so be sure to identify your pest before proceeding with treatment.
Leaf spot is a common disease in Indian hawthorns. It is caused by a fungus, spreads rapidly in moist conditions, and is typically found during a plant’s growth period. You can identify leaf spot by the small round red spots it causes on foliage, which sometimes merge together to form larger blotches. In severe cases, leaf spot can cause heavy leaf loss and even the death of the plant. Help to prevent it by watering at soil level to discourage damp foliage, and treat with a fungicide (North Carolina State University- Cooperative Extension).
What has your experience been with Indian hawthorns? Leave a comment, and don’t forget to share this page with other interested growers!