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Red Tip Photenia

December 1, 2018


My red tip photinias are dying from leaf spot disease so I am removing them.  Can you suggest another bush that would provide a screen from the street?



You have several options.  There are numerous species of hollies that grow large and can provide screening, including standard yaupon holly, Foster holly, lusterleaf holly or Nelly R. Stevens holly.  You can also try cleyera, one of the little leaf magnolias, or one of the standard arborvitae.  


September 15, 2018


QuestionWe have 6 tall red leaf bushes with the large leaves.  This summer they have lost almost all of their leaves.  The leaves have dark brown spots and holes on them.  They stand 12 feet tall.  What can we do to return them to a healthy hedge?  Should we cut them back, and by how much?




Your plants have a very common problem with red tip photenias called entomosporium leaf spot. It has been wiping out photenia plants across the south for years now.  You have several choices.  One is remove the plant and replace with something more carefree.  You can also cut them back by half and then spray with a fungicide in early spring to start the season out healthy and see what happens. If they have totally defoliated from the disease, my guess is they will succumb to the disease again next season unless you are prepared to spray weekly during the growing season, which I do not recommend.  I would replant with something new.


December 23, 2017


I have a short row of old red-tips. They are at least nine feet tall. I want to cut them back to about four feet tall so I can trim every year without using a ladder. Is December too early? Should I wait until later?  



Red tips or red top photinias are a common landscape plant that have been used as a hedge plant for many years.  In the past 20 years they have been gradually disappearing from our gardens due to a leaf spot disease. I am glad yours are doing so well.   I would recommend waiting until the end of February or early March before severely pruning them back.  Heavy pruning now is going to expose the plants to potential winter injury.  By waiting until the bulk of the winter has passed gives you a buffer of the top growth should we get any damage.  Then prune away.  They should rebound fairly quickly with the burst of new growth in the spring. Do be aware that rapid new growth can be more susceptible to the disease.


September 30, 2017


Is it too late for me to trim crape myrtles and red top photinias? I also have some large woody plants that are growing around my back yard that I have cut back but they just seem to be doing better than ever. I have heard that you put salt on them to kill them. Is it rock salt, how do you do it without killing everything around it?



The time to prune crape myrtles is in February, before new growth begins.  Pruning them in the fall can expose them to winter damage if we have a cold winter.  The key is to get them through the bulk of the winter before pruning.  If your red top photinia just needs a light trim, that is fine to do now, but severe pruning--removing more than 1/3 of the plant should be done in the spring; you don’t want to encourage too much new growth this late in the season.  I do not like to use salt to kill plants, as salt will stay in the soil for a long time and can leach out and damage nearby root systems.  Once you cut the trees down, you can paint the stumps with an herbicide such as Brush-B-Gon, Brush Killer or Roundup Super Concentrate.  Monitor these trees next spring as new growth begins, and if you see new growth repeat the above process.


July 1, 2017

QuestionAre there still disease problems with Red Tip Photenia? If so, any other suggestions for a fast growing and tall hedge row?



The leaf spot disease is a problem that is not going to go away on photenias and for that reason, I don’t recommend planting them.  Some other options include holly – Nellie R. Stevens, foster or luster leaf, cleyera, eleagnus, Chindo viburnum, or Little Gem magnolia.


April 30, 2016

QuestionI have a row of red tipped photinia that are a living fence in my back yard. They were an excellent screen for years, but I have had some problem with a leaf spot disease and those plants are thin.  Others have all their foliage at the top with just twiggy growth at the base.  I would like to cut them back so they'll bush out nearer to the ground and function once again as a screening hedge and get rid of the disease.  How severely can I cut them back without harming them and will this control the disease?   How long will it take for them to fill back in? Should I spray with something for the disease, and should I fertilize to help them grow back? If so, with what?

AnswerRed top photinia were the most popular hedge plant in the south for years, but entomosporium leaf spot has been thinning out the population for over twenty years.  The disease has a purple to red spot filled with a gray center.   Some existing plants do not have the disease, but that can change. If you are planning on removing more than a third of the growth, which it sounds like you are, you need to do so quickly. I would have preferred to do so in late February through early April to allow more recovery time.  Severe pruning can encourage rapid, tender new growth which can be more sensitive to the leaf spot disease.  Sterilize your pruning shear between pruning cuts because you can spread the disease mechanically with your pruning shears.  As new growth begins, make sure that the top of the hedges always stays a bit narrower than the base to allow sunlight to get to all parts of the plant ensuring foliage from the top of the plants to the bottom.  If disease is not a factor, they should fill back in quickly.  Broadcast a light application of fertilizer around the plants and water it in when done pruning.  I really don’t recommend regular spray schedules, but you can apply a general fungicide such as Daconil after you prune to help prevent diseases, and then see what happens. If they don’t respond the way you want, or the disease gets worse, consider replacing them with something else.  


July 2006

QuestionI have heavy infestation of my Fraser's Photinia hedge with black spot on the leaves. Not all bushes are infected but those that are, seem to be very heavily spotted. Any quick cure? Can they be saved? Any help would be appreciated.


AnswerUnfortunately, there is no such thing as a quick cure for entomosporium leaf spot of red top photenias. This leaf spotting disease is quite similar to black spot on roses and would need weekly preventative spray programs for total control--not worth the effort in my opinion. You can spray two to three times in early spring before the disease kicks in for the season with a fungicide such as Immunox or Daconil, but if they were my bushes, I would start planting a more disease free hedge nearby and gradually replace them. WE have been losing red tops across the south for twenty years now and they are not worth the effort.

July 2008

QuestionI have a question about red tip photinias. I planted them hoping that they would be ten to 15 feet tall. I think they are probably a little taller than fifteen feet now. I'm concerned that they will get taller. They are down the hill from a septic tank. I'm sure that has played a part in their rapid growth. The ones on the other side of the yard are about half as tall. Do you think I'm about to end up with freakishly tall shrubs?


AnswerThe common red top photinia doesn't usually grow much taller than twenty feet, and that's provided it doesn't get the dreaded leaf spot disease. It shouldn't get much larger than it is now.

March 2005

QuestionI need your help. We have cut down most of our red-tips because of the fungus. I have fought it for so long and now it has spread to all of them and we had so many. Now we want to replace them and we don't know what to put there. We would like something that grows well with no disease problems. I thought you might have some suggestions.


AnswerRedtop photenias have really been hit hard by the leaf spot fungus and are dying across the south. You are wise to stop fighting it, and replace. There are numerous options. You can use Nelly R. Stephens holly, Foster Holly, Elaeagnus, Green Giant Arborvitae, winter honeysuckle, and cherry laurel, just to name a few. Visit with your local nursery and look at the plants, and see which ones you like best.

November 2005

QuestionI have several red tops along with some holly bushes against the front of my home. I lost one red top this summer and I dug it up completely and made a circular flower bed where I planted summer annuals. It was pretty this summer but now with winter coming on I need to put something more permanent in to balance things out. I would like some evergreen, holly or something that stands about five feet high. Is it too late to plant hollies now? I saw one that started with an F, but I can’t remember what it was.


AnswerIt is not too late to plant. Fall is an ideal time to plant hardy trees and shrubs. Red top photenias have been dying across the south for years now with the leaf spot disease, or the weakening of the plant. Replacing them with tougher plants is often a good idea. By all means, you can still plant now. Keep in mind that many of our plants are container grown these days. Container grown plants can actually be planted twelve months out of the year, as long as you water. Fall is much better than summer in my opinion, so plant away. You probably saw a Foster Holly.


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