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Red Robin

I inherited an old, tall ‘Red Robin’ about 10 ft high. The lower branches have few leaves and look as if they won’t grow any new shoots. The upper branches have only a few healthy leaves and a lot of them drop off. Is it too tall to heavy prune. I am worried I won’t get any new growth if I do this but I can’t see a light prune helping. It would be very difficult for me to dig out Any advice welcome.


  • Busy-LizzieBusy-Lizzie Posts: 14,772
    Mine grew bushier below when I cut off the top growth, but it wasn't short of upper leaves to start with.
    Dordogne and Norfolk
  • BorderlineBorderline Posts: 4,114
    Jillyb03, It's certainly a tall shrub now. Any chance you could take a photo of this shrub? Helps to know the health of the shrub and also the level or bare branches. Sometimes, Photinias don't do that well without a wall or barrier. Think about your site. Is it exposed and windy?

    If you have many branches below that are bare, it's a good time to prune them back. Although an evergreen shrub, they still shed leaves too and more so when conditions are less than ideal. 

    If you want to rejuvenate the lower branches, you will need to tackle the top sections. It will seem drastic and you will have a period of just bare branches further up, but there should not be a reason for leaving it the way it is, unless you want to create a standard type shape which is quite popular for photinias.
  • jillyb03jillyb03 Posts: 6
    Thanks to BusyLizzie and Borderline. It is quite sheltered in a south facing corner. Here’s a photo I’ve just taken
  • WaysideWayside Posts: 773
    I quite like them when they are tall and delicate like this.
  • jillyb03jillyb03 Posts: 6
    I still like it but am worried it is ‘sick’ as only a few of the very top leaves are healthy looking and all the new growth also looks poorly. I feel that if I cut it down even a foot, there will be nothing healthy to see. Maybe it has had its’s possibly 50+ years old ( if they were around when this house was built) Anyone on the forum who has had a Photinia that has actually ‘bitten the dust’ ?
  • WaysideWayside Posts: 773
    Partner's sister had one die in its late teens (near Birmingham).
  • BorderlineBorderline Posts: 4,114
    Thanks for taking a photo. Are there slabs near the base? I can't see the base properly. You need to prune this shrub. It needs rejuvenating. If you are worried, start by one or two branches for this year and see how it responds after that.

    Prune them down by at least half its current height. It's nearly double the height of the back fence and can be catching the wind. Inspect the leaves. Are there any spots on the leaves. If yes, you will need to collect all dead and fallen leaves off from the area and lay new layer of compost of mulch. After cutting down the branches, feed the shrub. I doubt the shrub is fifty years old. These shrubs grow quite fast.
  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 26,104
    If you're worried about losing it, maybe take about 1/3 of the branches  down to about a couple of feet and leave the others for another year? You'll soon see if it's going to spring back, without risking the whole plant.
  • jillyb03jillyb03 Posts: 6
    All good advice..thanks to everyone. There are slabs but a metre away. The old conifer next to it, with the bird table on top (I had the top sawn off) now has loose roots and can be rocked about. Could it’s roots be rotten and effecting the photinia ? I’m ‘clutching at straws’
  • BorderlineBorderline Posts: 4,114
    It's hard to know but if other roots are affecting it, but I think your shrub looks pretty established, and if all good, should be able to rejuvenate after it's been pruned down a bit.

    I would rather prune it down to test its ability than see it limp along like this. That's what I would do, it's up to you. Even on a south border, it can still be quite exposed from behind. I think the height needs to be reduced.
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