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Photinia tree spots and bare branches

squirral87k4-WvGwTsquirral87k4-WvGwT Posts: 167
edited April 2021 in Plants
This Photonia Red Robin tree in the house I moved into last summer was almost completely bare and looked dead. After some pruning late last summer it’s put on some new growth this spring but not huge amounts. 

I didn’t prune right to the top because I couldn’t reach! 

See photo. 

I’ve also noticed the leaves have spots as in the photo below. My online research suggests this could be fungus or magnesium deficiency. 

The tree is about 2.5 meters tall.

I thought I’d prune it now again and give it some rose fertiliser. This is based on my research online. I read Epsom salts can also be added. Is this the right thing to do? 

Any advice to help this tree thrive is most welcome.



  • Pete.8Pete.8 Billericay, EssexPosts: 9,869
    Photinia are susceptible to black spot disease.
    Most of the photinia shrubs I see locally have it and there's not much that can be done about it I'm afraid. On the plus side, it's rarely fatal.

    Some info here may help -,the%20very%20beginning%20of%20spring.

    Epsom salts won't help as your plant doesn't have a magnesium deficiency.
    Clear up any diseased leaves on the ground, give it a good mulch and water regularly in dry conditions to give it the best chance - and keep your fingers crossed
    Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit.
    Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  • Thanks @Pete.8 - does the leaf spot effect how bushy the tree is? Any advice on bulking it up /pruning again now?
  • Pete.8Pete.8 Billericay, EssexPosts: 9,869
    In all honesty, I don't know, but a loss of leaves means less energy for the plant.

    It's not a shrub I have in my garden, but a thread on here the other day about the same problem encouraged me to do some digging, and I came across the article above.

    There are many red Robins locally and I noticed that most of them had the black spots, but not all so I tried to find out why.

    Hopefully someone will be along and be able to answer your question.
    Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit.
    Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  • didywdidyw East SuffolkPosts: 2,586

    This thread intrigued me so I enlarged a pic of a close up of my photinia Red Robin that I took a few weeks ago because I loved how the sun was highlighting the new red leaves. And yes, it does have black spots and blemishes on the leaves - but not enough for me to worry about.  So my advice - just leave it and let it do its own thing!
  • samaliumsamalium Posts: 12
    Hello,  I have a couple of Red Robins and they have the black spots on the leaves every year. They do fine though so it doesn't seem to be anything to worry about.
  • PeggyTXPeggyTX Posts: 556
    edited April 2021
    Yes, Red Robin Photinias are very disease-prone in Central Texas.  The owner before us here planted five them along our driveway to garage.  They were 20' tall!  We cut them back to 7' so we can prune them easier to bring out more red each spring.  The new one I planted in the row (replacing one that apparently died before our ownership of the property) has never really filled out and taken off.  In 2 years it's still just 3' tall, although not showing signs of disease just yet.  I love the look of photinia, especially in spring, but hate fighting the disease(s) they are prone to.  They didn't do well at my last house either, so I don't think it's my soil.  I have always thought it either heat or humidity they don't like.  

    That said, I'm now moving toward a new shrub favorite.  Ligustrum sinense 'Sunshine'  I hope it proves to be a more care-free replacement for dying Photinias and to replace a few small trees it looks like we will lose as a result of our recent ice/show storm.  They offer year round color impact in an otherwise all dark green bed.  Only thing currently in that bed besides the larger trees are a few clumps of evergreen Nandina domestica.  I just this week planted a grouping of six of the "Sunshine" ligustrum a corner bed in front garden.  They are to replace two trees we removed in February so that a focal 20' Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis) and 7' Althea (Hibiscus syriacus) that were not blooming much anymore for lack of adequate sunshine.  Looks like we may lose our 25' Loquat tree in t hat bed as well.  All leaves died and no sign of green under the bark anywhere, not even down low on the trunk.  Praying for some shoots to peek out at the ground around the trunk, but none emerging as yet.  So I hope these new Ligustrum 'Sunshine' fill in a little of the now somewhat empty look in that bed.   
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  • Thanks @didyw - I’m not really bothered by the spots themselves but am bothered by the bare branches. It looks nothing like yours!

    I think I have no option but to prune out all the dead branches that haven’t formed buds (which is more than half the tree)

  • I think it was somewhere in advice issued by Gardener's World that Photinia leaf spot was found in samples to be significantly more commonly associated with poor cultural conditions than with the infamous fungus. There's some good advice about keeping them well nourished and the soil in good heart in the PDF here.

    It's very probable that the spots only become a noticeable problem if the plant is under stress--especially if you're pruning a lot and not putting anything back into the soil, that could account for it. Try a fertiliser with trace elements and a regular mulch that doesn't touch the stem. This will probably produce an improvement faster than spraying.
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