Indian hawthorn (Rhaphiolepis indica) is a relatively small shrub that naturally grows in a neat, rounded shape but can grow up to 3 to 6 feet tall. Despite its common name, it doesn't solely grow in India. It comes from China and 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. Like other hawthorn plants, it is not toxic to humans or pets. It is also not an invasive species.
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 relatively slow growth rate and should be planted in the early spring.
|Common Name||Indian hawthorn|
|Botanical Name||Rhaphiolepis indica|
|Mature Size||3–6 ft. tall and wide|
|Soil Type||Moist, well-drained|
|Soil pH||Acidic, neutral, alkaline|
|Flower Color||Pink, white|
|Hardiness Zones||8–10 (USDA)|
Indian Hawthorn Care
Indian hawthorn shrubs are relatively 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 airflow. Damp conditions can promote disease in the shrubs.
Plan to water young shrubs regularly to maintain even soil moisture. Mature Indian hawthorn shrubs only need water if you have a stretch without rainfall. Moreover, fertilizing and pruning will typically only be annual tasks.
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.
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.
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 ground begins to dry out due to a lack of rainfall, give the shrub a good soaking but avoid overhead watering, which can spread 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 the 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.
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. For the amount to use, follow product label instructions.
Types of Indian Hawthorn
There are many varieties of Indian hawthorn, including:
- Rhaphiolepis indica' Little Pinkie': Pink flowers; can bloom twice a year in the spring and the fall; grows about 2 feet tall; grayish-green foliage
- Rhaphiolepis indica' Indian Princess': Grows about 4 feet tall and wide; bears white and pink flowers with bright green foliage
- Rhaphiolepis x 'Montic': Hybrid; larger than the typical shrub, growing up to 24 feet tall and 10 feet wide; bears pink flowers in the spring
- 'Blueberry Muffin': Cold hardy variety with good root rot and leaf disease resistance; develops blue fruit; leaves turn purple in winter in full sun
- 'Clara': Grows 3 to 4 feet tall; some resistance to leaf spot
- 'Eleanor Tabor': Pink blooms; 3 to 5 feet tall; good leaf spot resistance
- 'Eskimo': Cold tolerant to 5 degrees Fahrenheit; high resistance to leaf spot; grow up to 6 feet tall
- 'Snow White': Dwarf form; 3 to 4 feet tall; white flowers with light green leaves; good leaf spot resistance
- 'Georgia Petite': Light pink and white blooms; grows about 2.5 feet tall; good resistance to leaf spot; cold hardy to 5 F
- 'Rosalinda': Typically grown as a tree, it reaches up to 12 feet tall; dark pink blooms
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 it just after it’s done flowering. You can remove any dead, damaged, or diseased stems at any point in the year.
Propagating Indian Hawthorn
The standard method for Indian hawthorn propagation in the nursery trade is from rooting semi-hardwood cuttings (stems that are already firm but still young enough to bend easily and snap when broken) in midsummer. Here's how to do it:
- Choose a vigorous branch 4 to 6 inches long with a few nodes. Remove leaves from the lower third of the cutting.
- Dip the stem in rooting hormone. Plant the cutting in a damp mixture of potting mix.
- Keep the pot in a location with bright indirect light and water regularly. The roots begin to form in about 10 weeks.
How to Plant
Indian hawthorn is primarily propagated by cuttings. So, once a cutting has developed roots and new growth, it is ready for transplanting to its permanent spot. Space plantings 18 to 24 inches apart to accommodate its expected growth. Plant the transplant in the hole, covering the soil to the same level on the stem as its former container. Mulch over the top and water deeply.
Do not plant it in a shady spot. It will get scraggly, losing its compact growth habit as it grows out searching for the sun. It can tolerate afternoon shade as long as it has full sun for most of the day. Also, it can handle most soil types, but if the soil is clay or sand, mix in some compost to enrich it, encouraging healthy growth.
How to Grow Indian Hawthorn From Seed
Most Indian hawthorns grown in the landscape are cultivars. Growing them from the seeds of your shrub will likely not produce a plant true to the parent plant. Therefore it is not recommended to grow Indian hawthorn from seed.
Potting and Repotting Indian Hawthorn
If you’re planting Indian hawthorn in a container, 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 with a diameter of at least 6 inches larger than the root ball of your plant.
When the plant starts to outgrow its container, choose the next container size and replant it in a fresh potting mix. The best time for repotting is usually in the spring before the temperatures get hot, approximately 60 F.
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, when the shrub is not actively growing in the winter, reduce its watering. Do the finger soil test and only water when at least the top two inches are dry.
How to Treat Common Pests & Plant Diseases
Indian hawthorns are susceptible to 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.
These shrubs are also vulnerable to fungal diseases, particularly entomosporium leaf spot, which can cause leaf damage and loss. This fungus is most common during rainy spring and fall seasons. Prevent such diseases by keeping the foliage dry and ensuring 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 produces lots of foliage but no flowers, so you might need to look at the fertilizer label and switch to a product with more phosphorus. Improper pruning is another possibility; you might have accidentally removed the flower buds if you pruned the shrub early in the year and didn't wait until after the bloom. Lack of sunlight can also be a reason for the shrub not blooming as expected.
Indian hawthorn is usually easy to care for but is susceptible to environmental issues like plunging temperatures and unseasonably rainy spring and fall seasons. Such conditions can cause damage and disease that can kill the plant.
Indian hawthorns are sensitive to cold damage and should be placed in protected areas or wrapped in the event of a cold snap. Indian hawthorn is prone to injury from the cold if temperatures drop below 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, mulch helps insulate the roots.
Cold damage can cause browning or blackening of leaves, split bark, cracks along the trunk, and drying out. Severe damage can kill the plant. Evaluate any damage in the spring. Remove dead or dying branches to make way for new growth.
Indian hawthorns are evergreens, so they don't lose their leaves in the fall, but if you notice the plant suddenly defoliating, it could be leaf spot disease. This fungal disease starts as small brown spots that lead to large blotches, eventually causing leaf drop. It is one of the main reasons for health problems with this plant. This is such a widespread problem that many cultivars have been developed to be resistant to leaf spot disease.
Moist conditions lead to the cultivation and spread of the fungus that causes this condition. To prevent it, space your Indian hawthorn far apart to improve air circulation and use drip watering instead of overhead watering. If your plant has this fungal infection, use an antifungal spray from spring until June and again in the fall. Bag and discard the fallen and diseased leaves.
What causes brown spots on Indian hawthorn?
Indian hawthorn is susceptible to leaf spot fungus, often spread by overhead watering. The fungus causes leaf discoloration, leaf drop, and limb dieback, making the plant look unattractive.
Does Indian hawthorn have a deep root system?
The shrub is a popular choice for plantings near buildings or foundations because it does not have a deep root system.
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 your area has a large deer population, you will likely need to protect your shrubs or consider planting something else.
Is Indian hawthorn toxic?
Indian hawthorn is non-toxic to humans and pets.
Is Indian hawthorn fast-growing?
Most Indian hawthorn is relatively slow growing, with a rate of fewer than 12 inches per year. However, some cultivars like 'Montic' that grow large tend to grow faster.
Raphiolepis indica. University of Florida.