How to Grow and Care for Indian Hawthorn

Indian hawthorn shrub with white star-shaped flowers in sunlight closeup

The Spruce / K. Dave

Indian hawthorn (Rhaphiolepis indica) is a relatively small shrub that naturally grows in a neat, rounded shape. Despite its common name, it doesn't solely grow in India. It comes from China and also grows in other parts of Asia and Australia. It’s a great landscaping choice for warmer climates to grow as hedges, foundation plantings, and more. It even does well as a container plant.

This evergreen shrub features slightly bronze foliage that matures to a deep green color. Its oblong leaves are roughly 2 to 4 inches long with a leathery texture and serrated edges. In the spring, the shrub bears showy, fragrant, light pink or white flowers that grow in clusters. The blooms are star-shaped with five petals. Small, dark blue fruits appear after the shrub flowers and can remain on the plant through winter unless they’re eaten by wildlife. This shrub has a fairly slow growth rate and should be planted in the early spring.

Common Name Indian hawthorn
Botanical Name  Rhaphiolepis indica 
Family Rosaceae
Plant Type  Shrub
Mature Size 3–6 ft. tall and wide
Sun Exposure Full
Soil Type Moist, well-drained
Soil pH Acidic, neutral, alkaline
Bloom Time Spring
Flower Color Pink, white
Hardiness Zones 8–10 (USDA)
Native Area Asia

Indian Hawthorn Care

Indian hawthorn shrubs are fairly easy to care for, as long as you plant them in the proper growing conditions. They prefer a sunny spot with well-drained soil and good air flow. Damp conditions can promote disease in the shrubs.

Plan to water young shrubs regularly to maintain even soil moisture. Mature Indian hawthorn shrubs generally only will need water if you have a stretch without rainfall. Moreover, fertilizing and pruning will typically only be annual tasks.

Indian hawthorn shrub with deep green oblong leaves surrounding red and yellow buds in sunlight

The Spruce / K. Dave

Indian hawthorn shrub growing in a rounded shape near street

The Spruce / K. Dave

Indian hawthorn shrub with waxy oblong leaves in sunlight

The Spruce / K. Dave

Rhaphiolepis indica in bloom
KY / Getty Images

Light

This shrub does best in full sun, meaning at least six hours of direct sunlight on most days. However, it can tolerate light shade, though it will be healthier and flower better with full sun.

Soil

Indian hawthorn can tolerate many soil types as long as there is good drainage. Soggy soil can cause root rot on the shrub. Moreover, it prefers a soil pH that’s slightly acidic to slightly alkaline. 

Water

A moderate amount of soil moisture is ideal for Indian hawthorns. Young shrubs prefer consistently moist (but not soggy) soil, while established shrubs have some drought tolerance. When the soil begins to dry out due to a lack of rainfall, give the shrub a good soaking but avoid overhead watering, which can lead to the spread of fungal disease.

Temperature and Humidity

This shrub thrives in warm climates with mild winters. It’s been known to tolerate temperatures down to 5 degrees Fahrenheit, but prolonged cold can damage the foliage and even kill the plant. On the warm end, the shrub can handle temperatures well into the 90s. It prefers a moderate amount of humidity. 

Fertilizer

Indian hawthorn shrubs aren’t heavy feeders. However, they will benefit from a feeding in the spring of an all-purpose, slow-release fertilizer. Compost mixed into the soil around the shrub can also encourage healthy growth.

Indian Hawthorn Varieties

There are several varieties of Indian hawthorn, including:

  • Rhaphiolepis indica ‘Little Pinkie’: This variety has pink flowers and can bloom twice a year in the spring and the fall. It only grows to about 2 feet tall and sports grayish green foliage.
  • Rhaphiolepis indica ‘Indian Princess’: This variety grows to about 4 feet tall and wide, and it bears both white and pink flowers with bright green foliage.
  • Rhaphiolepis x ‘Montic’: This hybrid is larger than the typical shrub, growing up to 24 feet tall and 10 feet wide. It bears pink flowers in the spring.
Rhaphiolepis indica 'Little Pinkie' blooms
Little Pinkie Mayerberg / Getty Images
Rhaphiolepis indica 'Indica Princess' blooms
Indica Princess seven75 / Getty Images

Pruning

These shrubs don’t need a lot of pruning, as they naturally grow in an aesthetically appealing mounded shape. If you’d like to tweak the shape of your shrub, lightly prune just after it’s done flowering. You can remove any dead, damaged, or diseased stems at any point in the year.

Propagating

The common method of Indian hawthorn in the nursery trade is propagation is from semi-hardwood cuttings (stems that are already firm but but still young enough to snap when bent) taken in mid-summer:

  1. Choose a vigorous branch of 4 to 6 inches in length that has a few nodes. Remove leaves from the lower third of the cutting.
  2. Dip the stem in rooting hormone. Plant the cutting in a damp mixture of potting mix.
  3. Keep the pot in a location with bright indirect light and water regularly. The roots begin to form in about 10 weeks.

Growing from Seed

Most Indian hawthorn grown in the landscape are cultivars. Growing them from seeds of your own shrub will likely not produce a plant true to the parents. Therefore it is not recommended to grown Indian hawthorn from seed.

Potting and Repotting

If you’re planting Indian hawthorn in a container, it’s critical to use a pot with ample drainage holes and a loose potting mix to ensure good drainage. For the container to accommodate the shrub for two to three years before repotting it, choose one whose diameter is at least 6 inches or more inches larger than the root ball of your plant. 

When the plant starts to outgrow its container, choose the next container size up and replant it in fresh potting mix.

Overwintering

Indian hawthorn is not winter hardy below USDA zone 8 and the container must be brought inside for the winter. Place it in a spot where it still gets full sun. However, in the winter when the shrub is not actively growing, reduce the watering. Do the finger soil test and only water when at least the top two inches are dry.

Common Pests and Plant Diseases

Indian hawthorns also are susceptible to some insect pests, including aphids, nematodes, and scale. Watch out for leaf damage or discoloration, and use an organic neem oil spray to combat any infestation. Furthermore, the shrubs are vulnerable to fungal diseases, which can cause leaf damage and loss. Prevent such diseases by keeping the foliage dry and making sure it has good air circulation. 

How to Get Indian Hawthorn to Bloom

Indian hawthorn not blooming, or blooming poorly, can be due to several things. Too much nitrogen fertilizer products lots of foliage but no flowers so you might need to look at the label of the fertilizer you are using and switch to a product with a higher amount of phosphorus. Wrong pruning is another possibility; you might have accidentally removed the flower buds if you pruned the shrub early in the year and not waited until after the bloom. Lack of sunlight can also be a reason for the shrub not blooming as expected.

FAQ
  • Will deer eat Indian hawthorn?

    Deer like to munch on Indian hawthorn shrubs, especially on the tender young leaves and also during the winter. If you have a large deer population in your area you likely will either need to protect your shrubs or consider planting something else.

  • What causes brown spots on Indian hawthorn?

    Indian hawthorn is susceptible to leaf spot fungus, which is often spread by overhead watering. The fungus causes  leaf discoloration, leaf drop, and limb dieback of limbs and can make the plant look highly unattractive.

  • Does Indian hawthorn have a deep root system?

    The shrub is a popular choice for plantings near buildings or foundations because it does snot have a deep root system.

Article Sources
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  1. Raphiolepis indica. University of Florida.