Photinias are large shrubs or, occasionally, small trees, grown principally for their handsome foliage as well as attractive flowers and fruits, depending on the type. Most photinias are evergreen and by far the most popular and colourful is Photinia ‘Red Robin’, which makes a superb display of leaves that are bright sealing-wax red when young. Photinia is easy to grow in the right conditions, hardy except in cold or exposed sites – and is prone to frost damage – and suits a range of sites and uses around the garden. Photinias are reasonably fast growing, typically putting on 30cm of growth per year, making them an ideal option for a hedge. Depending on the variety, photinia grows from between 1.5 and 4m high and wide.
How to grow photinia
Plant photinia in good soil and in a range of sites depending on the variety and intended use. Mulch with compost in early spring. Trim as required, in spring and summer.
Where to grow photinia
Grow photinia in sun or partial shade, avoiding exposure to winds. In colder areas, site in a sheltered spot to avoid the foliage becoming scorched or damaged by frost. Grow in good fertile soil but not in ground prone to waterlogging or drought. Most photinias thrive in any reasonable soil though some of the less common species need neutral or acidic soil. Plant photinias at the back of a border, either on their own, as as a hedge or trained against a fence or wall. Compact-growing varieties such as ‘Little Red Robin’, or photinias trained as standards, suit large pots.
How to plant photinia
Plant in spring in colder areas so plants can become well established before winter. In milder areas, plant in autumn. However, photinias can be planted through the growing season if kept watered during dry weather. If soil is poor, improve by incorporating organic matter in advance of planting. To grow in pots, plant in a soil-based potting compost.
How to care for photinia
Keep watered during dry spells for the first one to two growing seasons until the root system is well established. After that, photinias growing in the ground usually need no regular care apart from pruning as required. Mulching the soil in autumn or spring is recommended to keep plants in good health. Against walls, where soil tends to be dry and sheltered from rainfall, give an occasional thorough watering during the growing season. Pot-grown photinias need watering throughout their lives.
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How to prune photinia
Trim as needed to restrict or reshape growth, in spring and summer. Regular trimming also encourages a brighter, longer display of the young colourful foliage. If tackling overgrown plants, prune in spring, thinning out congested growth and removing entire branches, if necessary, though take care not to spoil the shape of single free-standing plants.
How to propagate photinia
Propagate photinia by taking semi-ripe cuttings or layering.
Take semi-ripe cuttings of young, healthy, vigorous, non-flowering shoots in mid to late summer. Pop these in pots of moist, gritty compost and cover with a clear plastic bag or pop in a propagator until you see signs of fresh growth. Pot into individual pots after a few weeks and keep in a frost-free spot over winter. Your cuttings will be ready to plant out from spring.
Layering is done in situ by rooting stems whilst still attached to the parent plant. Select healthy young shoots growing near to the ground and bend them down to touch the soil. Using a sharp knife, remove a sliver of bark at the point where the stem meets the soil. Then peg the stem firmly in place and leave for up to 12 months until roots have formed.
Pests and diseases
Once established, photinia is mostly free of pests and diseases. Powdery mildew may occur as greyish or purplish blotching on the leaves, especially in dry conditions. Vine weevil may eat at the leaf edges, creating notches around the leaf, but rarely sufficient to impact on plant health.
Photinias growing in adverse conditions may develop spotted, discoloured or shrivelling leaves caused by conditions such as exposure to wind, lack of water, frost or waterlogging. Trim off affected foliage in spring or summer, and boost plant health by mulching the soil with garden compost or chipped bark. Feed with a slow-release fertiliser in spring if the foliage looks pale or discoloured but take care not to over-feed.
Advice on buying photinia
- Photinia 'Red Robin' is widely available from garden centres and online. Specialist nurseries will sell less common varieties
- Plants are offered in a wide size range, including mature specimens and standards, so check the specifications carefully. Comparing prices from different suppliers is recommended
- Always check for signs of pests and diseases before planting
Where to buy photinia online
Types of photinia to try
Photinia x fraseri ‘Red Robin’ is the most widely available photinia. Evergreen, elliptical leaves are bright red when young. Height x Spread: 6m x 4m
Photinia ‘Little Red Robin’ has a more compact habit than 'Red Robin'. Suitable for growing in pots. H x S: 1m x 1m
Photinia serratifolia ‘Pink Crispy’ is compact with pinkish-red young growth and mature leaves marbled green and white. Suitable for growing in pots. H x S: 1.75m x 1m
Photinia beauverdiana has red-brown new leaves and white flowers in spring. H x S: 90cm x 90cm
Photinia davidiana is evergreen although some leaves turn red and fall in autumn. H x S: 8m x 6m
Photinia villosa is a deciduous photinia that can grow into a small tree with a bushy crown and a weeping habit. Young bronze leaves mature to green and then orange-red, before falling in autumn. White flowers appear in spring, followed by glossy red berries. H x S: 8m x 4m
Photinia niitakayamensis is an rarely-found, multi-stemmed shrub with scented, white flowers in spring, followed by bright orange-red fruits, which often last into winter. H x S: 2.5m x 2.5m