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What is Photinia?

By Anna Harrison
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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Photinia is a family of both evergreen and deciduous plants belonging to the Rosaceae, or rose, family. Most have small, toothed oval leaves that are red on the tips and thorny branches. Their small, five petaled flowers bloom in clusters in early summer, and bright red berries appear in the fall. They are native to Thailand, Japan, and India, but are grown as a landscape plant or hedge throughout North America and Europe. These plants are frequently called by several different names, including Common Emerald, Setaceous Hebrew Character, and Feathered Thorn.

Like other members of the rose family, these shrubs love hot weather and must be grown in areas with full sunlight to thrive. Once the shrubs have developed a good root system, they are extremely tolerant of drought and dry soil. They prefer a rich, well drained soil and benefit from the addition of well rotted compost. Members of the genus benefit from frequent pruning, which increases the bushiness of these fast growing plants and also stimulates the growth of new branches.

If these shrubs are not pruned regularly, they will grow to a height of about 18 feet (5.5 m) and up to 12 feet (3.7 m) in width. When planting more than one Photinia, they should be placed at least 7 or 8 feet apart to provide plenty of air circulation. This helps to prevent many different types of diseases including powdery mildew and rust. It will also discourage slugs and snails, as well as many other types of pests.

Photinia is susceptible to damage from many different types of harmful insects, although aphids are most likely to do serious harm. These bugs can be many different colors and are very tiny. The easiest way to control aphids is by spraying infested plants with a strong spray of water from a garden hose. Once the aphids are knocked off the plants, it is very hard for them to find their way back to them.

All varieties of Photinia are sterile, and produce no seeds. The easiest way to propagate new plants is from stem cuttings. These can be taken from soft or hardwood cuttings, although softwood cuttings tend to be easier to root and grow more quickly. They should be taken in late spring or early summer and should snap easily off the branch. Soft cuttings are delicate and should be kept well watered until rooted.

Hardwood cuttings are usually taken in winter, while the plant is dormant. Photinia should have no new growth appearing and the cuttings should be taken from firm branches. These type of cuttings are slower to root slower grow, but are generally tougher than softwood cuttings and more likely to resist damage and disease once planted in the ground.

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Discussion Comments
By anon153769 — On Feb 18, 2011

I am a little disturbed by the suggestion in your article on propagating photinia by cuttings, that these cuttings be taken late spring to early summer. In at least two other articles on this topic, the recommendation was late summer to early spring. It is a little confusing - I am propagating Photinia Robusta.

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