Red tip photinia (Photinia x fraseri) is a broadleaf evergreen shrub that gets its name from the striking red color of its young leaves, which change to a dark green as they mature. Also known as Fraser photonia, it is an excellent shrub for hedges and privacy screens. It can also be shaped it a small specimen tree. Red tip photinia is a hybrid plant, a cross between P. glabra (Japanese photinia) and P. serratifolia (Chinese photinia).
Most types of red tip photinia grow 6 to 10 feet tall, but the cultivars well suited for training as small trees may grow up to 20 feet tall. The leaves are the starring feature of this plant. Each new leaf that unfurls is a bright shade of red or bronze for several weeks before turning green. By continually trimming the ends of the shoots, you can force the plant to keep producing new leaves throughout the year.
This shrub also has white or cream flowers that nearly cover the foliage at the peak of bloom. Unfortunately, the flowers have an unpleasant odor, so most gardeners prefer to prune the shrub's stems before they flower. If the flowers are left to bloom, they give way to small red pome fruit that may remain through winter into the following spring.
Landscape Uses of Red Tip Photinia
Red tip photinia is a common choice for hedges, especially where it is possible to provide the constant pruning needed to maintain the shape and promote the ongoing formation of new red leaves. It can be a good choice for hedges and privacy screens in areas where deer are a problem, as these animals tend to leave the shrub alone. Larger cultivars can be grown as small specimen trees, achieving heights of about 20 feet.
|Botanical Name||Photinia x fraseri|
|Common Name||Red tip photinia, Fraser photinia|
|Plant Type||Evergreen shrub|
|Mature Size||12 to 18 feet tall and 8 to 12 feet wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun to part shade|
|Soil Type||Well-drained, sandy or loamy|
|Soil pH||6.5 to 7.5|
|Hardiness Zones||7 to 9 (USDA)|
|Native Area||Hybrid plant; parent plants are native to Japan and China|
How to Grow Red Tip Photinia
Plant these shrubs in medium moisture, well-drained soil in a full-sun to part-shade location. Avoid sheltered locations, since these plants need good air circulation to avoid fungal disease. When planting the shrubs to form a hedge, provide at least 6 feet between the plants because they grow quickly to a spread of 8 to 12 feet.
Red tip photinia has a broad tolerance for sunlight exposure, and will even tolerate full shade, though flowering will be much reduced. In very hot climates, this shrub does best when it gets partial shade for part of the day, and is best planted in north- or east-facing locations. In cooler climates, it prefers full sun.
Red tip photinia prefers well-drained soil in locations that receive good air movement. Heavy clay soils should be amended with 50 percent compost before planting. Avoid wet soils, as this can lead to root rot.
Water the plant once a week at the base during dry periods, and avoid getting the leaves wet. Once established, red tip photonia has a good tolerance for short periods of drought.
Temperature and Humidity
Red tip photonia does well in the climate conditions across USDA zones 7 to 9, provided it gets good air circulation to prevent fungal disease. It does not do well in very wet, humid environments. It occasionally survives in zone 6 if given an ideal location that is sheltered yet airy.
Red tip photinia normally does not require fertilizing unless the soil is very poor. When feeding is required (based on a soil test), use a slow-release organic fertilizer.
Continual pruning of the shoot tips will prompt continued production of the attractive reddish leaves. This does preempt flower production, but this is not a problem since the flowers have an unpleasant odor. Thin the plants out in winter by removing some stems all the way to the ground to improve air circulation and prevent fungal disease.
If growing this plant as a tree, choose a central leader and prune away competing shoots to gradually shape the plant into a tree shape.
Propagating Red Tip Photinia
Since this is a hybrid plant, propagation is done through woody cuttings. Embedding the cut shoots in potting soil and keeping the soil moist will help develop roots quickly.
Common Pests/ Diseases
Red tip photinia is susceptible to fungal diseases when conditions are wet or when grown in humid climates. Entomosporium fungus is a particularly big threat in the Deep South. This disease appears as red spots across the leaf surface. If it is not controlled, it can overtake the plant and cause many of the leaves to drop, sometimes killing the plant. You can help affected plants recover by keeping the leaves dry and removing diseased foliage.
Powdery mildew and fireblight are also potential problems, as is common for many of the Rosaceae species. Root rot is possible if the soil is wet. You may also see leaf scorch, crown gall, and gray mold (Botrytis).
Insects that you may find on this shrub include caterpillars, European fruit-tip moth, mites, and scale.
Varieties of Red Tip Photinia
- P. x fraseri 'Red Robin': The most commonly planted cultivar; grows 9 to 12 feet tall, with a similar spread; a somewhat compact cultivar that is easy to tame for use in hedges; resistant to leaf spot diseases
- Photinia × fraseri 'Little Red Robin': Similar to 'Red Robin' but much smaller, with a height and spread of only 2 to 3 feet
- Photinia × fraseri 'Pink Marble': A newer cultivar with rose-pink new leaves with white variegated margins; grows 7 to 14 feet tall and 6 to 10 feet wide