How to Grow Indian Hawthorn

Rhaphiolepis indica in bloom
Natalia Spiridonova / Getty Images
In This Article

Indian hawthorn (Rhaphiolepis indica) is a relatively small shrub that naturally grows in a neat, rounded shape. 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 up by wildlife. This shrub has a fairly slow growth rate and should be planted in the early spring.

Botanical Name  Rhaphiolepis indica 
Common Name Indian hawthorn
Plant Type  Shrub
Mature Size 4–6 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
Toxicity Nontoxic

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. If you’re planting them in a container, it’s critical to use a pot with ample drainage holes and a loose potting mix. 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.

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 getting water on the leaves, as Indian hawthorn is susceptible to leaf spot—a general term for a fungal or bacterial disease of the foliage that’s often caused by too much moisture. In the winter when the shrub is not actively growing, reduce watering. Wilting of the leaves and stems is a good indicator that the shrub needs a drink.

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.

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.

Common Pests/Diseases

Deer often like to munch on Indian hawthorn shrubs. So if you have a large deer population in your area you likely will either need to protect your shrubs or consider planting something else. 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. 

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