By: Jackie Carroll
Red tip photinias (Photinia x fraseri, USDA zones 6 through 9) are a staple in Southern gardens where they are grown as hedges or pruned into small trees. The fresh new growth on these attractive evergreen shrubs is bright red, fading to green as it matures. In late spring and early summer, the shrub bears 6-inch (15 cm.) clusters of white flowers that are sometimes followed by red fruit. Unfortunately, the flowers have a foul odor, but the smell doesn’t seem to permeate the air or travel very far and doesn’t last long. Rejuvenating a red tip photinia is easy and can make an aging shrub look new again.
Can You Hard Prune Red Tips?
Photinia tolerates even the most severe pruning, and grows back looking better than ever. The only problem with hard pruning is that the tender new growth is susceptible to scales and aphids. Keep a bottle of insecticidal soap or horticultural oil on hand and use them according to the label instructions at the first sign of insects.
Rejuvenate red tip photinia when the shrub doesn’t color up as it should or when it looks overgrown, congested, or straggly with dead areas in the center. The easiest method of photinia rejuvenation is to cut back the entire shrub at one time. Photinia tolerates cutting back to about 6 inches (15 cm.) above the ground. The problem with this type of pruning is that it leaves a gap and ugly stump in the landscape. You can try hiding it with tall annuals, but if it bothers you, there is another method that isn’t as extreme.
The second way to rejuvenate red tip photinia takes three or four years, but the shrub continues to fill its place in the landscape as it regrows. Each year, cut out one-half to one-third of the stems to about 6 inches (15 cm.) above the ground. Begin with the oldest and largest stems and then cut the week and misshapen ones. After three or four years, the shrub will be completely rejuvenated. You can continue this method of pruning after the shrub is completely rejuvenated to keep it looking fresh.
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How to Cure Black Spots on a Red Tip Photinia
Red tip photinia (Photinia x fraseri), sometimes also commonly known as Fraser photinia, grows as a large evergreen shrub across U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 7 through 9. Red tip photinias, frequently used for hedges or screens, are prized for their foliage, showy white summertime blooms and an ability to perform well in a variety of soil types. A member of the rose family, red tip photinia is susceptible to multiple diseases that can cause dark spots to develop on leaves. Entomosporium leaf spots first appear on older leaves as small red spots that darken and grow in size as the disease progresses. Black fruiting bodies may develop in spot centers. Leaf spots caused by another disease, scab, are circular, olive-green to black and velvety or scabby looking.
Cut off any leaves with spots on them or prune off entire portions of the plant where spotting is concentrated. Use sharp, clean tools to snip off leaves or branches, making each cut slightly angled and next to a branch, or above a bud or leaf node. Perform all pruning when conditions are dry, bag or otherwise dispose of infected photinia portions you remove, and disinfect your pruning tools between cuts using a household cleaner or solution that contains bleach or rubbing alcohol.
Water the photinia deeply and infrequently whenever rainfall is inadequate. Use drip irrigation or a soaker hose to wet at least the top 6 to 8 inches of soil whenever soil an inch below the soil surface feels dry to the touch. Avoid overhead irrigation or accidentally wetting photinia foliage with sprinkler irrigation, as this spreads spores and encourages germination.
Rake up and dispose of fallen leaves and mulch or other debris around the red tip photinia, and leave the ground around the plant bare or apply fresh mulch in a loose layer about 3 inches thick.
Prune out some of the photinia's branches where growth is particularly dense or leaves are in contact with each other. Make each cut just above a bud, leaf node or junction, and dispose of portions of the photinia you remove in the trash. Thinning out dense growth improves air circulation around foliage and encourages rapid drying.
Spray the foliage of particularly prized or vulnerable photinias or photinias that have had a serious problem with leaf spots in previous years with a protective fungicide before the disease appears for the season. Take note when you first notice the disease and plan to apply any fungicide a few weeks before this date in subsequent years, if needed. To protect the red tip photinia from Entomosporium, spray the leaves thoroughly with chlorothalonil or a copper compound before the disease appears. To avoid problems with scab, apply a narrow-range oil, sulfur or Bordeaux mixture to the photinia foliage about once per week until wet weather conditions have largely ended for the year. Application rate will vary depending on the chemical and product chosen, so observe label recommendations for mixing, if necessary. Do not apply sulfur and horticultural oil within two weeks of each other to avoid injury to vegetation.
Treating Photinia leaf spot disease
Protecting photinia from leaf spot
- Anti-fungal spray such as Bordeaux mixture is one of the best ways to prevent Photinia from falling sick.
- It’s also possible to prepare your own natural fungicide from weeds and plants that might grow in your garden.
- Spray at the end of winter or at the very beginning of spring.
- Don’t spray if temperatures are below freezing.
- Rake up or collect any leaves that are infected instead of leaving them near the shrub. Destroy them either by burning them or thorough composting.
Since the fungus spreads through splashing water from shrub to shrub, you can prevent photinia leaf spot if you :
- Plant different varieties near each other in a mixed hedge, instead of only planting Photinia.
- Alternate Photinia with other evergreen hedge shrubs
- Prune your photinia as a standalone into a tree shape, to avoid low-lying leaves.
- Water only near the ground, without splashing the leaves.
- Avoid pruning in summer, because this would trigger new growth that the fungus will quickly colonize.
How to treat photinia leaf spot
Once leaf spot disease has appeared:
- You should pick all infected leaves by pruning them out.
- Diligently disinfect your pruning shears, scissors or secateur with methylated spirits or alcohol between cuts.
- Spray at two week intervals, preferably just after a rain or shower.
- Spray again with Bordeaux mix in fall.
Powdery mildew often manifests itself as a white, powdery substance that builds up on the leaves and other plant parts of photinia. It also causes slowed leaf growth or distortion and leaf drop. Shade and temperatures between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit are ideal conditions for powdery mildew growth. Keeping the plant bed clean, keeping the foliage dry, regular pruning and fungicide applications are all effective control methods. Apply the fungicide in the same manner as you would to control entomosporium leaf spot.
Learn more about Photinia
Photinia are shrubs that were hybridized by man and are the result of crossing two different species.
Developed in New Zealand, they were introduced to the West around 25 years ago.
The red-leaved shrub often appears as ornamental shrubs, in beds and in hedges. However, you can also plant it as a standalone.
Their main feature is that leaves are consistently of two colors: deep red for young leaves that slowly turn green as they mature.
They make your hedges and shrub beds stand out with that touch of color.
Abundant leaves quickly make the shrub opaque, which makes it one of the most commonly planted evergreen shrubs in hedges.
This magnificent shrub fits perfectly into any hedge and combines very will with many other species.
Photinia rejuvenation is pretty easy and rarely results in the plant dying. As you've noted, Photinia are pretty vigorous plants.
. The easiest method of photinia rejuvenation is to cut back the entire shrub at one time. Photinia tolerates cutting back to about six inches above the ground. The problem with this type of pruning is that it leaves a gap and ugly stump in the landscape. You can try hiding it with tall annuals, but if it bothers you, there is another method that isn’t as extreme.
The second way to rejuvenate red tip photinia takes three or four years, but the shrub continues to fill its place in the landscape as it regrows. Each year, cut out one-half to one-third of the stems to about six inches above the ground. Begin with the oldest and largest stems and then cut the weak and misshapen ones. After three or four years, the shrub will be completely rejuvenated. You can continue this method of pruning after the shrub is completely rejuvenated to keep it looking fresh.
Regardless of the approach you choose, I'd suggest doing the pruning in late winter or very early spring.
Thanks for your response and detailed instructions. I really appreciate it!
Quick question regarding the first (and most dramatic) method: If I completely cut them all backat once, roughly how long would it take to come back?
That's pretty impressive! Thanks again for your help