Is It a Good Idea to Use Red Tip Photinia Shrubs for Landscaping in Texas?
Our home in Houston, Texas presently has some red tip photinia bushes that were planted in the outdoor landscaping long before we started living here. Since moving here, I keep them well trimmed and each Spring they reward us with those eye catching colorful red tipped leaves on the new growth which certainly adds beauty to our garden.
These relatively fast growing shrubs which can also be allowed to grow as small tree specimens are seen in many places around town.
But if I were starting a home landscaping project from scratch, would I choose red tipped photinias as a part of the mix?
When my mother moved to Houston many years ago, the home she purchased only had a couple of trees in the backyard. We decided that it would look nicer to have some additional plantings and I volunteered to help her with that project.
We would both go to the local nurseries and look at the plants and make decisions as to what we thought would be pretty and once we got the plants and shrubs home, I did all of the laying out of the design as well as digging and planting the chosen specimens.
It was fun!
A garden hose was utilized as an outline pattern for the design of the beds. Then the digging would commence.
Red tip photinias were chosen as a shrub to be planted against the fence and would serve as a green backdrop for the majority of the year. Of course each Spring, we had that blaze of red color for about a month of the year for some additional color in the garden landscape.
This vides shows photinia flowers in bloom.
Fast Growing Hedges
Red tip photinias fit the bill for fast growing hedges and soon we had my mother's back fence covered with these evergreen shrubs with smaller plants and flowers filling out the rest.
All was well for a time.
Then new people moved in the house behind my mother and planted some fast growing water oak trees close to the fence. It did not take long for the photinias to start showing distress.
First of all, photinias while they can tolerate some partial shade they really thrive in full sunlight and like lots of air circulation around them.
Being planted against the fence instead of out in the open would have cut some of the air circulation. But when they became immersed in shade almost all of the time plus undoubtedly had to start competing against those spreading tree roots for nutrients, we noticed a drastic change in their appearance.
Photinia Leaf Spot
My mother's pretty photinia hedge all of a sudden became not so attractive.
A fungus called Entomosporium began attacking the leaves and dark red spots and even grayish looking spots began covering the leaves and then they started falling to the ground leaving bare looking branches.
Not exactly the fence cover that we were seeking!
We took a sample of this diseased looking photinia to the nursery to find out what could be done to treat it. The remedy was not simple!
First of all, every leaf that had fallen had to be continually removed or it could keep re-infecting the plant. Then we had to continually keep spraying a fungicide on a weekly basis. What a pain!
Since I was the landscaper at my mother's house, most of these duties fell to me to execute. My mother did help in picking up fallen leaves which was quite a job as they just kept falling.
Over time once we learned that other things simply could not be corrected like gaining more sunlight and increasing air circulation (the fence obviously had to stay) we finally gave up and dug the few remaining photinia shrubs out that had not already died to be replaced with other hardier plants.
It was a steep learning curve!
Had we planted these plants out in the open and had allowed them to become a small tree which is another way to allow them to grow, our experience could have been different. It may never have developed the leaf spot or even if it had, it might have better recovered.
Photinias can grow up to 15 feet (4.7 meters) tall and when not kept hedged, produce white flowers followed by small red to blackberries later in the year that birds like to eat.
When looking at these beautiful red tipped leaves of a photinia plant in a nursery just be knowledgeable about what you are purchasing and the requirements of keeping them healthy.
There are many different species of these plants grown in places around the world. They are cold hardy down to around 0 degrees Fahrenheit and can also withstand blazing hot temperatures of 100 degrees F. or more. They grow best in plant zones 7 to 10.
If growing the species called x fraseri in the family of Rosaceae and genus Photinia which are commonly called Red Tip Photinias, just be advised that when used in outdoor landscaping they like plenty of air circulation and plenty of sunlight. They do make beautiful hedges if kept out in the open and kept trimmed. They would naturally grow into a large shrub or even a small tree form if left on their own. They like regular fertilizing and regular amounts of water although they can withstand dry conditions better than some other shrubs.
So is it a good idea to plant photinias? You decide!
Characteristics of things to know about Red Tip Photinias.
Grows into a tree or shrub?
Cold hardy down to 0 degrees F?
Can withstand hot temperatures?
Grows in deep shade?
Is disease resistant?
Likes good air circulation?
Related to the Rose family?
Do you like the red tipped photinias in your garden?
Questions & Answers
When is the best time to prune these Photinia Shrubs?
I generally waited to prune our red tip photinia shrubs after the beautiful new growth in spring and early summer had abated. That is when the leaves are at their most red hued stage. That being said you can trim these shrubs almost anytime of the year except about 2 months before the possibility of freezing weather. All types of trimmed shrubs should have time to harden off prior to freezing weather.
My Red Tip Photinia shrubs have grown to about 20 feet and have bad fungus. Do I need to just cut them down?
I would definitely cut them back because there will be less to treat if you are going to apply fungicide as often as needed. You also need to be aware that any leaves from the diseased plant need to be removed from the soil.
© 2011 Peggy Woods