Red Tip Photinia Plants - Our Best Tips to Grow and Care For Fraser's photinia

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by Max - last update on February 3, 2020, 7:08 am
Red Tip Photina

This hybrid shrub has ovate foliage that unfurls in a striking red color, then develops into a dark green after several weeks. It blooms heavily with cream-colored flowers, though many gardeners choose to prune the buds as they emerge as the flowers emit a foul smell.

An attractive evergreen specimen to bring interest to your garden all year long, this plant is easy to grow and fairly low maintenance, making it a popular choice across gardens in North America.

Red Tip Photinia Overview

Quick Facts

Scientific NamePhotinia x fraseri
FamilyRosaceae
TypeEvergreen shrub
Common NamesRed tip photinia, Fraser photinia
HeightUp to 20 feet
ToxicityNon-toxic
LightFull sun to partial shade
WateringAverage moisture needs
PestsScale, aphids

 

Varieties

Several varieties of red tip photinia plants are available. These include the following.

Photinia x fraseri ‘Little Red Robin’

Photinia x fraseri ‘Little Red Robin’

This is a dwarf variety of red tip photinia that grows to around 2 or 3 feet tall, with a similar-sized spread. It is ideal for container planting and can be perfect for growing in small gardens, on terraces, or balconies.

Photinia x fraseri ‘Red Robin’

Photinia x fraseri ‘Red Robin’

This is the most popular variety of red tip photinia, and it is commonly used in hedges as it is easy to tame. It grows to between 9 and 12 feet, making it ideal for use in privacy screening.

Photinia x fraseri ‘Pink Marble’

Photinia x fraseri ‘Pink Marble’
Credit to Leonora (Ellie) Enking

This plant has variegated leaves that start out a pretty shade of pink instead of the typical bright red we expect from red tip photinias. It can grow to be quite tall, reaching heights of up to 14 feet.

Caring for Your Red Tip Photinia

Watering

This plant has average water needs but does not tolerate wet soils, and therefore, a well-draining soil is essential. If you have heavy or clay soils in your garden, then you will need to make some amendments to this before planting the red tip photinia plant by adding plenty of organic compost and coarse sand. A well-draining soil will help to protect the plant against root rot by allowing water to drain away from the root system.

In terms of frequency, you can expect to water an average-sized red tip photinia plant around once a week during spring and summer, though this will vary depending on your plant's position and the weather. Always check the condition of the plant's soil before you water it, and if it is already moist, then refrain from watering for a few more days. An important element of watering this plant is ensuring that you water at the base.

Red tip photinia plants are very susceptible to fungal disease, and this is more likely to occur when the leaves of the plant are wet. Always irrigate at soil level, and avoid spraying the plant's foliage with a hose. If your plant is in a partially shaded position, it is best to water it during its time in full sun. This will help to prevent fungal disease as any water that may splash onto the leaves will be dried up quickly by the sun.

Light

Shrub with bright red tips of new branches

Red tip photinia plants fare well in both full sun and partially shaded locations. The ideal spot for your plant will be dependent on your local climate. If you have intensely hot summers, then a position of partial shade will be best for this plant.

Situate it so that it can receive full sun in the morning and shade in the afternoon when the sun's rays are harsher. This will help to give the plant some relief from raising temperatures at the hottest point in the day, while still giving it the light it needs to thrive. In milder areas, a position of full sun would be best for this plant.

Red tip photinias perform best when given access to full sun, and this also helps to discourage fungal disease from developing. It’s important to keep the foliage of this plant dry, as wet foliage helps to spur fungal disease. A position of full sun will mean that if the foliage gets wet during rainfall or poor watering practise, then the water will dry up more quickly in the sun than it would in the shade.

Shaded moist areas are when fungus thrives, so if your plant is in a partial shade position, you should take extra precautions to prevent this prevalent disease, and regularly check your plant for early signs of it.

Temperature

Leaves of Red Tip Photina

This hybrid plant is hardy through USDA hardiness zones 6 to 9 and is a popular shrub in many eastern and southern states. It enjoys warmth and plenty of light but isn’t tolerant of very high temperatures, so some shade will be helpful in allowing the shrub to cool down during hot summers (Clemson University Cooperative Extension- College of Agriculture, Forestry, and Life Sciences).

Propagation

Red tip photinia plants must be propagated from stem cuttings, as they are a hybrid species. They tend to root readily, so if you have one of these plants in your garden, you can easily create more with very little effort and high chances of success. They are an ideal beginner propagation plant if you haven’t tried to propagate before.

The best time to take stem cuttings from the red tip photinia is during late summer when stems are semi-ripe. Cuttings taken in spring or early summer tend to be too soft, and therefore are more likely to rot. Cuttings should be taken with a sharp knife, from the tips of the healthiest looking stems. Cut them off at around 3 or 4 inches, and make sure the cut is just below a leaf node (this is where the leaves join the stem).

Remove all leaves from the lower part of the stem, and place it in either a glass of water or a small container of potting soil. The cuttings need light to root, so sit them on a bright windowsill. You can cover the cuttings in a clear plastic bag to encourage rooting, as this helps replicate a greenhouse environment. Cuttings grown in soil will need to be kept moist but avoid over watering.

After a few weeks, check your cuttings to see if they have rooted. If you propagated in water, this can be done visually, but those propagated in soil will need to give the cuttings a gentle tug. If they do not easily slide out of the soil, then this means they have developed roots that are clinging on to the soil. At this point, you can keep the cuttings growing a few more weeks to develop stronger root systems, or you can plant them directly in the soil outside and continue care as normal (Royal Horticultural Society).

Pruning

There are several reasons to prune a red tip photinia. The first is to encourage it to grow in the manner you want it to; typically, people either want this plant to develop into a small tree, a shrub, or a hedge. The second reason is to rejuvenate the plant and keep it looking fresh, with new red foliage growth. And the third reason is to maintain its health and prevent fungal diseases.

To prune the plant into a tree shape, you need to choose a central stem which will become the trunk. Select the strongest looking stem and cut away all others. Continue to remove any competing stems, and your plant will take on a tree form. If you want a shrub or hedge, you can allow the plant to grow with more freedom.

To form a hedge, plant several red tip photinias with a gap of 6 feet between each. These plants grow quickly, and it will soon fill out, with each plant reaching the next to form a living fence.

Rejuvenating a red tip photinia will keep your plant looking fresh. You can continually prune stem tips once their leaves have turned green, as this will encourage new red growth to develop. This is usually done at the cost of flower production, but most gardeners are unbothered by this as the flowers have a foul smell, and the foliage tends to be more appealing.

If the majority of your plant is old, with straggly stems and dead branches, you can heavily prune it with great success. These plants respond well to severe pruning, and can be completely cut back to 6 inches from the ground, and will regrow into a fresh-looking plant. The drawback of this is that you will have a gap in your landscape until the plant refills it.

An alternative method that is less severe is to rejuvenate the plant over a several-year period. Each year, cut back around one-third of the plants stems to 6 inches from the ground. Start off with the oldest looking stems. This will encourage lots of new growth, and in a few year's time, you will have a completely refreshed plant without having to endure the empty space left by severe cutting.

Pruning this plant to prevent fungal disease is essential. It has a habit of becoming dense, which will help fungus to thrive. Thin out the plant each year with tactical pruning to increase airflow between the stems.

Red Tip Photinia Plants - Our Best Tips to Grow and Care For Fraser's photinia

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