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How to Care for a Photinia Plant

Small budding white flowers of the photinia plant against bright red leaves

Genus Photinia

If you’re the type of gardener who is more focused on finding flowering plants with attractive evergreen foliage over showy flowers, boy have we got the specimen for you!

Allow me to introduce you to the photinia genus. This genus is comprised of about 40-60 different species ranging from large shrubs to small trees. All part of the rose botanical family (rosaceae), they produce small red berries called the Christmas berry.

I’ll warn you right off the bat: photinia plants do not share the same intoxicating scent as a rose bush does. In fact, many gardeners find their flower smell rather repulsive, and will snip away the flowering stems before they bloom!

Stick around if you’re looking for a beautiful evergreen shrub with remarkable hedge plant applications and easy care. We’ll teach you all that there is to know about photinia plants.

What do Photinia Plants Look Like?

Amazing spherical tree of the photinia species with bright red leaves

Growth Habit

With over 40 species within the genus, there will be some slight variations when it comes to growth habit. But regardless of the size, they will bring ornamental appeal to your property.

A photinia shrub can grow to be a short as 4 feet in height, and a photinia tree can sometimes achieve 15 feet! They usually have an irregularly shaped crown with upward ascending branches.

Leaves

There are some photinia species that grow as a deciduous plant type, meaning that it will lose its leaves once the cold weather approaches, but the vast majority of them bear evergreen foliage that will remain green and persist all year long.

A photinia leaf is ovate in shape and finely toothed. Leaves are alternately arranged along the stem which is usually covered in small thorns.

More often than not, when a new growth leaf first emerges it will come out a bright red color and eventually mature into a glossy green. This color change is part of the appeal of the plant.

Flowers

Photinia flowers emerge as dense corymbs of small white flower clusters. They explode in the early summer and completely cover the shrub with these a white flurry.

Each small white flower has 5, simple and rounded flower petals. They are said to have a mild hawthorn scent, but there are tons of species that are said to smell quick unpleasant.

Once the flowers are fertilized, they will produce a tiny fruit in the form of a small pome. These pome fruits look like bright red berries that are filled with seeds.

These red berries attract attention from all sorts of small animals like squirrels and birds, and they will then eat the berries and proceed to disperse the seeds wherever they roam.

What are some Photinia Species?

Red tip photinia shrub with amazing leaves growing in the sun on a lawn

Red Tip Photinia (Photinia x Fraseri)

The red tip photinia is probably the most popular cultivar of photinia fraseri plants. Also known as the fraser photinia, this compact shrub makes for an amazing hedge plant.

The fraser photinia is an evergreen species that can identified by its ovular, dark green leaves that first emerge as crimson red leaves when they are young. They also bear small white flowers that bloom at the end of spring.

In the late summer they give way to adorable, bright red berries that are snacked on by all sorts of small animals. A particularly admired cultivar is called the ‘Little Photinia Red Robin’ photinia fraseri, that was given the award of Garden Merit by the Royal Horticultural Society.

Chinese Photinia (Photinia Serratifolia)

The Chinese photinia is also known scientifically as photinia serrulata, and this specimen is known as being the heaviest bloomer of all the photinia species. This small tree can grow to be 20-30 feet tall.

Photinia serrulata can be identified by its showy and fragrant white flowers that bloom in the late spring. Large red buds are visible nearly all year long, and they are accompanied by large, glossy, evergreen leaves.

Japanese Photinia (Photinia Glabra)

The Japanese photinia is a wonderfully lovely, large evergreen shrub that can grow to be up to 20 feet in height. The only thing to note is that p glabra is known for having very pungent smelling flowers.

Photinia glabra can be identified by its bright white flowers that blooms in the early spring. These smelly blossoms are accompanied by bronze foliage that matures into green. P glabra also bears bright red buds most of the year.

Where are Photinias Native Plants?

Lovely tiny white flower buds of the photinia plant against red leaves

Something very valuable that every gardener should learn about a new garden plant is where it originally comes from. This way they know better how to mimic its ideal growing conditions, and the gardener will have a fighting chance at keeping it happy!

Photinia plants are native to the warm and temperate areas of Asia. Their growing range starts in the Himalayas and spans throughout Japan, China, India, and Thailand.

That being said, photonia plants can be cultivated in a ton of other places throughout the world as garden plants, as long as those places are temperate. They are especially popular in New Zealand and Australia.

Photinias can be grown outdoors all year long as long as they’re living in USDA growing zones 7 through 9. In all other zones, they will need to be brought indoors for the colder winter months.

What are the Ideal Growing Conditions of Photinia Plants?

Now that we have all of the basic information about photinias, it’s time for you to learn just how easy it is to care for one of your very own.

Photinias are one of those awesome plants that can be totally fine if they’re neglected for a while. Photinia care can easily be incorporated into your regular gardening routine. Here are some tips:

Bright red photinia shrub with amazing foliage growing on front property

Soil Type

Photinia plants are super chill about the soil type that they grow in. The main thing that the soil needs is proper drainage. This is absolutely essential to plant health.

They perform great in soil that is fertile and rich in hummus. A super easy way to increase fertility and drainage is to simply incorporate some compost into the mix at the beginning of the growing season.

Sun Exposure

Photinia plants absolutely love sunshine. They will perform their absolute best if you plant them in an area that receives a minimum of 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day.

However, there are some species that can tolerate some partial shade as long as their soil doesn’t stay too moist for long periods of time.

Water Level

Here is something you have to be a little bit careful about: watering your photinia. It is very important that you can avoid getting the leaves of your plant wet.

Getting the leaves wet makes them more susceptible to fungal attacks of the leaves. One issue they are very prone to is entomosporium leaf spot. You’ll be able to tell because red or purple circles start to appear on the leaves.

You can easily avoid this by simply watering close to the ground, and by making sure that you don’t over water your plant. Remember: under watering is always better than over watering.

Lovely bright red leaves growing through a white picket fence of photinia shrub

Temperature

Gardeners also love photinia shrubs because they are surprisingly cold hardy! They can survive a decent amount of time at temperatures as low as 5 degrees Fahrenheit.

A photinia tree can grow outdoors all year long in USDA growing zones 7 through 9, but should be brought indoors in all other zones during the colder months of the year.

Fertilizer

Though they won’t say no to it, photinia plants don’t really need fertilizer in order to thrive! That compost you incorporated when first amending your soil will be more than enough nutrients for it thrive.

Pruning

The most maintenance that your photinia plant will require from you is with pruning. Regular pruning is absolutely essential to the health of the plant.

Regular pruning is important because these plants require a ton of space around their leaves. It is important that they are aerated or else they will become vulnerable to fungal disease, powdery mildew, and entomosporium leaf spot.

You can prune hard in the late spring and early summer to help maintain an attractive and open canopy for the plant.

How do you Propagate a Photinia Plant?

Propagate photinia shrubs growing in a garden waiting to grow into a hedge

Now that you’re an expert on photinia care, it is finally time for the last step: learning how to propagate one of your very own. These plants are best propagated through stem cuttings, and it can be done in 3 different ways:

1. Take a healthy stem cutting (with at least 2 sets of full leaves) and put in in a Ziplock bag that is filled with a mixture of vermiculite and perlite. Keep the mix moist and place the entire bag in a sunny place.

2. Take a healthy stem cutting and place it in a pot of soil. Place the small pot under a UV light or in a very sunny south facing window.

3. You can also take that stem cutting and simply place it in a clear glass filled with water. Place the clear glass in a very sunny windowsill.

Options 1 and 3 are usually a little bit faster, and little roots will start to develop within 4-6 weeks! Propagating with a clear glass is always fun because you can actually see the roots start to develop!

Happy planting!

Bright red Christmas berries of the photinia plant

FAQs

Are photinia plants deer resistant?

Something else great about photinia plants is that they are resistant to grazing from larger pests like squirrels, rabbits, and deer.

What are the damaging agents to photinias?

Here is something you have to be a little bit careful about: watering your photinia. It is very important that you can avoid getting the leaves of your plant wet. They can very quickly develop photinia leaf spot.

Getting the leaves wet makes them more susceptible to fungal attacks of the leaves. One issue they are very prone to is entomosporium leaf spot. You’ll be able to tell because red or purple circles start to appear on the leaves.

The most maintenance that your photinia plant will require from you is with pruning. Regular pruning is absolutely essential to the health of the plant.

Regular pruning is important because these plants require a ton of space around their leaves. It is important that they are aerated or else they will become vulnerable to fungal disease, powdery mildew, and entomosporium leaf spot.

Are photinia plants evergreen or deciduous?

There are some photinia species that grow as a deciduous plant type, meaning that it will lose its leaves once the cold weather approaches, but the vast majority of them bear evergreen foliage that will remain green and persist all year long.

Are photinia roots invasive?

The red tip photinia is known to be an invasive species in the state of Texas, and one should avoid planting one.

Can I grow photinia in a container?

Photinia plants can easily be grown in a pot or container as long as that receptacle has drainage holes and it is placed in an area that receives direct sunlight exposure.

What do photinia leaves look like?

A photinia leaf is ovate in shape and finely toothed. Leaves are alternately arranged along the stem which is usually covered in small thorns.

More often than not, when a new growth leaf first emerges it will come out a bright red color and eventually mature into a glossy green. This color change is part of the appeal of the plant.

Can photinia be grown from cuttings?

The easiest and fastest way to propagate a new photinia plant is by taking stem cuttings that have at least 2 sets of full leaves on them, placing them in potting mix, and leaving them in a warm and sunny area while they take root.

Will photinia plans grow in the shade?

Photinia plants absolutely love sunshine. They will perform their absolute best if you plant them in an area that receives a minimum of 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day.

However, there are some species that can tolerate some partial shade as long as their soil doesn’t stay too moist for long periods of time.

How tall do photinia trees get?

With over 40 species within the genus, there will be some slight variations when it comes to growth habit. But regardless of the size, they will bring ornamental appeal to your property.

A photinia shrub can grow to be a short as 4 feet in height, and a photinia tree can sometimes achieve 15 feet! They usually have an irregularly shaped crown with upward ascending branches.

How often should a photinia shrub be watered?

When it comes to watering a photinia shrub, it is always best to make sure that the soil isn’t too saturated. Usually rainfall will be more than enough, so water your plant if there is an extended period of drought.

What USDA growing zones do photinia shrubs grow in?

Photinia plants are native to the warm and temperate areas of Asia. Their growing range starts in the Himalayas and spans throughout Japan, China, India, and Thailand.

That being said, photonia plants can be cultivated in a ton of other places throughout the world as garden plants, as long as those places are temperate. They are especially popular in New Zealand and Australia.

Photinias can be grown outdoors all year long as long as they’re living in USDA growing zones 7 through 9. In all other zones, they will need to be brought indoors for the colder winter months.

Which photinia is best for hedging?

The photinia red robin is known as being the best photinia species as a hedge plant. It is very easily trained, takes well to pruning, and has the perfect growth habit for hedging.

What is the ideal soil type for a photinia plant?

Photinia plants are super chill about the soil type that they grow in. The main thing that the soil needs is proper drainage. This is absolutely essential to plant health.

They perform great in soil that is fertile and rich in hummus. A super easy way to increase fertility and drainage is to simply incorporate some compost into the mix at the beginning of the growing season.