Photinia is a popular evergreen shrub with glossy green leaves, white flowers in flattened flowerheads and young red shoots. The best known of the photinias is Photinia × fraseri ‘Red Robin’ which is often planted as a specimen shrub or as a fast-growing, dense, evergreen hedge.
Photinia grows best in fertile, moist, well-drained soil in sun or partial shade in a sheltered position. The young shoots can become scorched by cold or drying winds and late frosts if grown in an exposed position.
Photinia is tolerant of most soils, even clay as long as it has been improved by incorporating well-rotted compost or manure. Most species will suit either acid or alkaline conditions, but P. beauverdiana and P. villosa are not happy in a chalky soil, needing neutral to acid soil conditions.
Pruning and training
Photinias require minimal pruning, but will benefit from the occasional trim in spring and summer to keep the shape of the plant under control. Avoid trimming after mid-August, since any new growth would be vulnerable to autumn frosts.
Follow the advice in the pruning evergreen shrubs profile, but also note the following:
Photinia × fraseri ‘Red Robin’ can grow up to 30cm (1ft) a year, so keep it under control and encourage new bright young leaves by shortening stems up to 15cm (6in), cutting just above an outward-facing bud
If ‘Red Robin’ is grown as a hedge, remove the tips of young shoots to encourage the bright red leafy re-growth. They can be trimmed up to three times a year
The deciduous P. villosa should be pruned in winter when dormant
P. davidiana ‘Palette’ is a slow-growing evergreen with variegated leaves that needs little pruning
If any of these photinias become overgrown, it is possible to renovate by cutting back hard to a low framework and thinning out congested shoots as they grow back. Response to renovation pruning is usually good.
The best method for propagating photinia cultivars, such as those of P. × fraseri including ‘Canivily’ AGM and ‘Red Robin’, or P. ‘Redstart’ is by softwood cuttings in early summer or semi-ripe cuttings in summer and autumn.
You can also grow species, such as P. villosa and P. davidiana, from seed, sowing in spring after stratification. Chilling may improve germination.
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