The Red Tip Photinia is a versatile plant that is a great choice for an individual specimen, a group planting, or trimmed into a hedge. With its glossy, evergreen leaves, it always looks attractive, and in spring it really puts on a show. The main event is the striking red color of the new shoots, as they burst from their winter buds. This color gives a big lift to the garden, and brightens all your planting. A hedge will become a wall of rich, glossy red, and if used as a background plant the whole garden will come alive with this vibrant effect. Nestling among these bright new leaves are large clusters of white, scented flowers, adding to the show. The red leaves last and last, sometimes for up to 4 months, before gradually fading to the rich green of the mature foliage. The flowers develop into clusters of red berries, which add a great feature to the fall garden, and often last well into winter, brightening the garden before becoming food for waxwings, thrushes and other wild birds.
Not only is the Red Tip Photinia an attractive addition to any garden, it is a tough, reliable plant, able to cope well in many different garden conditions. It is also fast-growing, adding 2 to 3 feet of growth every year when young, and it will grow in full sun, partial shade, and even in full shade beneath taller trees. As for soil, unlike those fussy plants that only grow in acid soils, this bush will grow in all kinds of soils. That makes it especially useful if you garden on alkaline soils, where the range of plants is more limited. It is also hardy to zero degrees Fahrenheit, so it grows across all the mild and hot parts of the country. It will also grow in zone 6, with colder winter temperatures, but there it should be planted in a southern or western facing spot, close to the shelter of a building. It has no particular pests or diseases, although in very humid areas some leaves may fall in summer. Avoid wet soil, and wetting the foliage when watering during humid seasons. Plants can be cut back and will quickly recover from any leaf loss.
Plant the Red Tip Photinia as part of your shrub borders. It grows 10 or 12 feet tall – a good size for background planting, but not so big that it will take over your garden. It will grow a similar width, but this is a plant that is easily trimmed to keep it smaller, if you need to. Because it is easy to trim, it also makes a wonderful screen or hedge plant. As an informal screen, place the plants about 8 feet apart – they will need little or no trimming to quickly form a dense barrier. For a clipped hedge lower than 6 feet, space out the plants 3 or 4 feet apart. Space them 5 or 6 feet apart for a taller hedge. Start trimming when your plants are still young, so that you develop a dense, twiggy structure to your hedge. With its fast growth-rate you will have a full-sized hedge in no time at all. Once established and clipped, the growth will slow a little, so this plant will not be hard to manage. The best time to trim an individual bush or a hedge is in late winter, before the new growth begins. Trimming in spring will remove the attractive red shoots, but if you trim just after they have turned green, another flush of red leaves will appear, continuing the color display.
All the different kinds of Photinia plants come from Asia, in countries such as India, Japan and Thailand, as well as in the Himalayan mountains. The story of the Red Tip Photinia is an interesting one. Ollie Fraser had a nursery in Birmingham, Alabama, which had been running since the beginning of last century. He had several different Photinia growing there, and one day he collected some seeds from a plant of an attractive Chinese species called Photinia serratifolia (also called ‘serrulata’). When the seedlings grew, one plant stood out as very different – fast-growing, and with brilliant red new shoots. When it was looked at by experts they realized that it was a hybrid with another plant – the Japanese Photinia, Photinia glabra, which was growing nearby. This all happened around 1940, and ever since then this wonderful plant has been grown in gardens for its toughness, rapid growth and beautiful red spring shoots. Ollie has the plant named after him – Photinia x fraseri.
Obviously, seeing how special this plant is, and how it was a very rare change event that produced it, cheaper seedling plants just called ‘Photinia’ will not be this great, fast-growing plant. Our plants are produced from stem cuttings taken from plants than can be traced directly back to that original plant growing in a seed bed at Fraser Nurseries. This plant has been a favorite for many years, and now you can buy top-quality plants guaranteed to be the original form, right here at the Tree Center. Because this is such a useful plant for both specimens and hedges, we know how quickly our stocks will be depleted, so order now while you can still enjoy in your own garden one of the highlights of spring.