Thursday, July 24, 2014

Fraser Photinia: Featured Plant of The Day

Photinia x fraseri
    Fraser Photinia,  Red Tip Photinia

Type    Tree, woody plant
Hardy range    7B to 9A
Height    15' to 25' / 4.60m to 7.60m
Spread    10' to 20' / 3.00m to 6.00m
Growth rate    Average
Form    Oval and upright or erect
Exposure    Full sun
Persistence    Evergreen

Bloom Color    White
Bloom Time    Summer

The flowers are very showy.

This plant tolerates drought and salt well.
This plant will grow in very dry soil.
Suitable soil is well-drained/loamy, sandy or clay.
The pH preference is an acidic to slightly alkaline (less than 6.8 to 7.7) soil.

Leaf Color    Green and purple
Fall Color    No change in fall color
This plant has attractive foliage.

Landscape Uses
-    Screen
-    Street tree
-    Standard
-    Specimen

Culture Notes
Fraser Photinia requires good drainage and a full sun location to look its best, though plants are tolerant of shade and grow well unless infected with leaf spot. However, plants in shaded landscapes often have severe leaf spot disease. Plants trained as hedges are more impacted by the disease because foliage is closer to the ground where spores overwinter; plants trained into small trees are less affected because foliage is higher off the ground.

Hedges are often seen without flowers because regular pruning removes flower buds. Plants left to grow taller or those only pruned immediately after flowering flower the best the following year. This plant is considered mostly allergy free and causes little or no allergy problems in most people.

Plants grow at a moderate rate and tolerate pruning very well, although the bottom of the plant often thins when clipped into a hedge. There are much better plants for hedges.  Plants are poorly suited for hedges because they grow too large; essentially you are attempting to make a small shrub out of the medium sized tree.

Micro-nutrient problems occur on alkaline soil, although plants continue to grow. Tolerates heat well and is suited for exposed sites like parking lots and median strips in highways.  It grows fine in the shade but leaf spot is sure to follow causing defoliation and disappointment (or jubilation depending upon your persuasion). Regular fertilization program helps foliage remain green. Chlorosis can occur on alkaline soil and in landscapes receiving little nitrogen and possibly potassium. Use Ternstroemia gymnanthera instead for a similar look and denser plant without the foliage disease problems of red tip.

 Use as a street tree

This plant can be grown as a multi-trunk tree for use in highway median strips and in landscapes, or can be used as a street tree where there is not a need for tall-vehicle clearance beneath the crown.  The small stature and low, spreading, branching habit makes pruning for vehicular clearance difficult unless it is properly trained from an early age to develop one main trunk. The effort required initially to train this tree for street tree use, however, may be offset by its advantages.

Planting and establishing shrubs

The most common cause of young plant failure is planting too deep.  Plant the root ball no deeper than it was in the nursery.  In most instances, the root flare zone (point where the top-most root in the root ball originates from the trunk) should be located just above the landscape soil surface. Sometimes plants come from the nursery with soil over the root flare. If there is soil over this area, scrape it off.  The planting hole should be at least twice the width of the root ball, preferably wider.  In all but exceptional circumstances where the soil is very poor, there is no need to incorporate anything into the backfill soil except the loosened soil that came out of the planting hole.  Never place ANY soil over the root ball. If a row or grouping of plants is to be installed, excavating or loosening the soil in the entire bed and incorporating organic matter enhances root growth and establishment rate.

Weed suppression during establishment is essential.  Apply a 3-inch thick layer of mulch around the plant to help control weed growth.  Keep it at least 10 inches from the trunk.  If you apply it over the root ball, apply only a one or two inch layer.   This allows rainwater and air to easily enter the root ball and keeps the trunk dry.  Placing mulch against the trunk or applying too thick a layer above the root ball can kill the plant by oxygen starvation, death of bark, stem and root diseases, prevention of hardening off for winter, vole and other rodent damage to the trunk, keeping soil too wet, or repelling water.  Regular irrigation through the first growing season after planting encourages rapid root growth, which is essential for quick plant establishment.