- Author: Kathleen Klobas
Looking out my kitchen window I admire the 10-foot tall hedge of Photinia fraseri along my backyard fence. I appreciate the privacy the solid green wall gives me from my neighbors, nice though they are! Photinias are easy-care, fast-growing bushes or trees. We planted 5 of them about 30 years ago and they are now a 25-foot long screen, 4 to 5 feet wide and dense. What I most look forward to in the spring is the bright red leaves of the new growth, a cheerful harbinger of the coming color and warmth the new season brings!
Photinia is a member of the large Rosaceae family. They are grown throughout the world in many forms. The plants I grow are one of the few that is known commonly by its Latin name, which means “shiny”, referring to the leaves. It is also called Red Tips in the US, or Christmas Berry in the UK, because of the variety grown there that develops scarlet fruit during the winter. My Photinia fraseri does not have berries but produces clusters of small white flowers that fade and drop after a few weeks. The new red leaves hold their color for 1 to 2 months.
The plants are fast-growing, resistant to mildew, tolerate heat, and are happy with little water once established. They are adaptable to planting zones from 3b (with protection) to zone 24. My shrubs could grow a little taller, to 15 feet, and are about 5 feet wide, their natural size in-depth, so that they need little shearing. P. fraseri doesn't like humidity and deep shade so our California climate makes it happy. The leaves and flowers are non-poisonous and it has few problems other than sometimes developing leaf spot or chlorosis.
Since they are a common landscape shrub or tree, look for the red bursts of the spring leaves to cheer you in our private and public gardens!