Red tip photinia (Photinia x fraseri) is an ornamental 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 low-maintenance shrub for hedges and privacy screens. It can also be shaped it a small specimen tree.
Most types of red tip photinia used for hedges or screens grow 6 to 10 feet tall, but cultivars selected 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.
|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|
|Native Area||Hybrid plant|
How to Grow Red Tip Photinia
Red tip photinia shrubs generally do well in sunny conditions and have a good tolerance for drought. They will tolerate some shade, but dense shade makes them susceptible to fungal diseases. 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. 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.
The best location for this shrub is one that has full sun or partial shade.
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.
Temperature and Humidity
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 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.
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 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
Continual pruning of the shoot tips will prompt continued production of the attractive reddish leaves. This does preempt flower production but, again, this is a shrub normally grown for its foliage, and the flowers have an odor that is not pleasant. Periodic heavy pruning of some branches down to the base will improve air circulation and prevent fungal diseases. If you live in an area with frosts, do not prune during the fall, since new growth may be damaged by freezing temperatures. 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.
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.
Common Pests and Diseases
Red tip photinia is a relatively hardy and carefree shrub, but it is susceptible to fungal diseases when conditions are wet or in humid climates. Entomosporium fungus is a particularly big threat. 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 scales.