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Caring for Your Red Tip Photinia

Red Tip PhotiniaThe Red Tip Photinia is popular for use as a privacy hedge or fence row in our part of the country.  These large shrubs are pretty, with their green leaves turning red and the pretty white flowers they produce in the Spring. These shrubs are generally referred to as simply "Red Tips".  

Too bad that this plant doesn't come with a 'buyer-beware' tag that lets you know of the care needed for a very common and debilitating disease of the Photinia....

Aside from all the positive attributes of our Red Tips, they suffer from the debilitating disease of leaf spot, or more specifically, Entomosporium Leaf Spot. This is caused by a fungus - and yes, it will ruin your Red Tips and can kill them.
Symptoms usually begin on the lower branches and, with help from splashing rain or irrigation, will spread throughout... infecting the entire plant. 

Leaf Spot FungusTreatment for "Leaf Spot"

Wait - there has to be a "pill" for this, right?  Well, yes and no. Although there are fungicides that are labeled for Leaf Spot for use on your Red Tip Photinia, there will have to be some cultural practices incorporated here if you plan on keeping these attractive shrubs.  Now, let's be clear - you can't cure this disease, but it can be contained.

Get a good, sharp pair of pruners and a good rake.  Entomosporium spores spread through water and are often splashed back up onto the plant from fallen , infected leaves on the ground.  So, if you simply prune your shrubs' lower limbs to prevent them touching the ground, there is less opportunity for the spores to splash back up onto the healthy leaves.

By pruning the lower branches, you also increase the opportunity for air to move more freely around the base of the plant, helping to prevent moisture on the lower leaves. It is also advisable to rake the litter from under your shrubs and hedges, as this will remove the infected leaves that have fallen and remove this reservoir of spores for the disease.

Now these easy "cultural" techniques, along with a good fungicide treatment occasionally applied and care to prevent pests that destroy ornamentals, will be a good program to keep these colorful plants in your landscape.  Don't feel bad if you occasionally loose the battle, though.  Entomosporium Leaf Spot is a very nasty disease. If you choose to not take up this battle, then some alternative shrubs for you to consider could be : Wax Myrtle, Camellia species, Japanese ternstroemia and many Vibernums.

Red Tips (Photinia) are awesome plants in the landscape -  but they do require effort to keep.

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