Red tip photinia (Photinia x fraseri) is an evergreen shrub that gets its name from the striking red color of its young leaves, which change to a dark green as they mature. It is a hybrid plant, a cross between Photinia glabra (Japanese photinia) and Photinia serratifolia (Chinese photinia). Also known as Fraser photinia, it is an excellent shrub for hedges and privacy screens, and it can be shaped into a small specimen tree. This plant has a fast growth rate and can gain around 1 to 3 feet each year. It should be planted in the spring.
The shrub has white or cream flowers that nearly cover the foliage at the peak of their 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 can remain through winter and into the following spring.
|Botanical Name||Photinia x fraseri|
|Common Names||Red tip photinia, Fraser photinia|
|Mature Size||10–15 ft. tall and wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full, partial|
|Soil Type||Loamy, well-drained|
|Soil pH||Acidic, neutral|
|Hardiness Zones||7–9 (USDA)|
|Toxicity||Toxic to animals|
Red Tip Photinia Care
The key to successfully growing these shrubs is to provide them with a spot that has good air circulation and well-drained soil. Soggy conditions can promote disease that can be deadly to the plant. If you are planting several shrubs to form a hedge, make sure to account for the plant’s width at full size. There must still be space for air to move through the leaves between each plant.
Pruning will be one of your main tasks to care for your red tip photinia. It’s important to prune at least annually to thin the growth and improve air flow throughout the plant. Plus, if you wish, you also can prune throughout the season to encourage new growth of the young red leaves. Besides pruning, plan to water when the soil gets dry and fertilize if your soil lacks nutrients.
Red tip photinia has a broad tolerance for sunlight exposure. It can even tolerate full shade, though this will limit flowering. In hot climates, this shrub does best when it gets partial shade—especially protection from the hot afternoon sun. It is best planted in north- or east-facing locations. In cooler climates, it prefers full sun.
Red tip photinia prefers loamy, well-drained soil in a planting site that has good air movement. Heavy clay soils should be amended with 50% compost before planting.
Water the plant once a week at its base during dry periods, and avoid getting the leaves wet. Once established, red tip photinia has a good tolerance for short periods of drought.
Temperature and Humidity
Red tip photinia does well in the climate conditions across USDA growing zones 7 to 9, provided it gets good air flow to prevent fungal disease. It does not do well in very wet, humid environments. It can survive in zone 6 when planted in a location that is sheltered from harsh winds yet has generally good air circulation around the shrub.
Red tip photinia normally does not require fertilizing unless your soil is very poor. When feeding is required (based on a soil test), use a slow-release organic fertilizer in the early spring as new growth begins.
Is Red Tip Photinia Toxic?
Photinia species are generally safe for humans, though their flowers can provoke allergies in susceptible people. Household pets also typically aren’t bothered by them. But livestock, especially ruminants, can experience toxic symptoms if they ingest the leaves, stems, or fruits due to how their digestive systems work.
Symptoms of Poisoning
Symptoms of toxicity include loss of appetite, nausea, fatigue, panting, rapid heartbeat, and muscle spasms. Contact a medical professional immediately if you suspect poisoning.
Continual pruning of the shoot tips as the red foliage begins to fade will prompt further production of the attractive reddish leaves. This does preempt flower production. However, most gardeners don't mind this because the flowers have an unpleasant odor.
Thin your shrub each year in the winter by removing some stems all the way to the ground to improve air circulation. This will help to prevent fungal disease and ensure that light can hit all parts of the plant. If you wish to train this plant to grow as a tree, choose a central leader and prune away competing shoots. This will gradually turn the plant into a tree shape.
Red tip photinia is susceptible to fungal diseases when conditions are wet and humid. Entomosporium fungus is a particular 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. And root rot is possible if the soil is too wet. You also might see leaf scorch, crown gall, and gray mold. Insects that you might find on this shrub include caterpillars, European fruit-tip moth, mites, and scale.
Red Tip Photinia Varieties
Some varieties of red tip photinia include:
- Photinia x fraseri 'Red Robin': This is the most commonly planted cultivar. It grows 9 to 12 feet tall with a similar spread. It's a somewhat compact cultivar that is easy to tame for use in hedges.
- Photinia × fraseri 'Little Red Robin': This plant is similar to 'Red Robin' though much smaller, with a height and spread of only 2 to 3 feet.
- Photinia × fraseri 'Pink Marble': This is a newer cultivar, featuring rose pink young leaves with white variegated margins. It grows 7 to 14 feet tall and 6 to 10 feet wide.