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Photina Red Robin

I planted 5 photinas about 2 years ago. They were all about a metre in height and I planted them about 60cm (2 feet) apart. There is space for them to grow as tall and wide as they like, but they don't seem to have grown at all since I planted them.

They are in full sun throughout the day. I thought I kept them well watered throughout the hot dry summers. They regularly produce red leaves which turn green, some have black spots and then the green leaves fall off so the shrubs look fairly bare most of the time. They all produce masses of flowers and berries so they seem 'healthy' but they don't seem to be growing. I planted them for a privacy hedge so how can I make them grow?

Any advice please?


  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 34,585
    maybe they're putting out lots of roots . I'd not worry too much about them as they sound healthy enough.
  • Thanks Hostafan1 Perhaps you are right. Would pruning them help to get growth or perhaps some sort of feed or mulch?
  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 34,585
    feed in Spring, you don't want to encourage new growth at this time of year. 
  • What’s the soil like and how was it prepared?  Is the base of the hedge kept clear of grass etc? 
    A photo might give us some more clues 

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

  • The soil was initially very hard to dig. I don't think it had been touched in decades if ever. I dug larger holes than the pots the plants came in and added compost and mycorrhizal fungi powder that the garden centre had recommended. That area is exposed and very dry due to being in full sun all day so I keep the area well watered in the dry hot summer months and I put a thick layer of gravel around the plants to help with water loss. A good 1m or more is kept clear around the base of the shrubs (no grass). There are no other plants in that area (no underplanting) except a few daffodil bulbs. About 3m or so away is a small conifer (blue spruce) which is currently just under 1m tall and I planted that a few months ago. My soil is acidic. There are masses of flowers in the spring and lots of berries for the birds. There is always red leaves, but they do have black spots and once the leaves turn green they seem to fall off. The plants have not grown at all since they were planted. Several neighbouring properties have photinas and they don't seem to water or mulch or do anything for the plants. They do regularly trim their shrubs with hedge trimmers though which seems to have created nice thick hedging. I have never pruned my photina plants which I'm now thinking I possibly should be doing in order to get the growth?

    I'm struggling to get a photo of plants and soil that doesn't include a neighbouring window or car number plate. :/

  • BorderlineBorderline Posts: 4,700
    A photo will help as it does sound like the lack of pruning back have created an open habit where mature branches thicken with less and less leaves over time. But, it's only 2 years too, so still trying to settle in. Your neighbours' shrubs may be far more mature so able to cope with drought.

    Photinias are quite sensitive to exposed and cold windy areas. Without back protection like a fence or wall or other taller shrubs, they can suffer with leaf drop. 

    If you try to prune back next year after late spring, the shrub may take a while to recover. It’s always best to prune them yearly to keep them more dense. They tend to get stronger when grown like that.

    They are also quite prone to fungal leaf spot. Quite difficult to eradicate. It’s damp wet conditions where they spread. Try to promptly remove fallen leaves around the base of shrubs to minimise re-infection. 
  • Thanks Borderline and you're right the neighbour's shrubs have likely been in place for decades so have had more time to establish. From late spring I will start to prune my shrubs and be more prompt about clearing away the dropped leaves. Hopefully that will help. 

  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 54,016
    If you live in an area which is damp/cold, they often don't do well, and look pretty rubbish a lot of the time. They certainly do up here, and often just die. 
    I think if they're only 2 feet apart, they may be more easily affected by pests and diseases too. You're not allowing much room for them to grow sideways to make a hedge.

    You may simply have to be patient though, if neighbouring gardens have them growing successfully.
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • You're right Fairygirl and patience is not one of my strong points! :D
    I thought as other gardens had them they would do well here but I must admit that I haven't been impressed with photinas so far. They certainly do not seem 'fast growing' to me (no growth in 2 years?) and 'evergreen' but there is hardly a leaf on them most of the time. If I had it all to do again I'm not sure I would go with this plant. All part of the learning and experience though I guess! :)
  • shazza 3shazza 3 Posts: 197
    I was given one of these a few years ago and mine didn't seem to grow for a long time then all of a sudden it was huge !!! They will grow and I didn't feed mine or anything, just kept it well watered in summer. You may need to space them a bit further apart so that when they do produce growth, they have enough room. They are not fast growing either. 
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