In 1940, a chance seedling sprouted into what became known as the red-tip photinia (Photinia x fraseri). At the Fraser Nursery in Birmingham, Alabama, a Japanese photinia (Photinia serratifolia) and Oriental photinia (Photinia glabra) hybridised. The red-tip photinia bears ruby-red new leaf growth in spring that decoratively contrasts the older green leaves. In "Dirr's Trees and Shrubs for Warm Climates," Michael Dirr states that this shrub once grew widely in gardens across the American Southeast. A fungal canker outbreak led to fewer gardeners utilising this plant.
A red-tip photinia is a durable and widely adaptable plant. It prospers in full sun to partial shade locations well. Dirr says it grows in "moderate shade but thriving where moisture and sunlight are available." All-day shade, or only bright indirect light leads to leggy growth or leaning branches that grow toward the light source. In lots of sunlight, the plant becomes a dense, rounded plant that blocks wind and unsightly views perfectly. Lack of rays also diminishes the display of red new growth as compared with shrubs receiving some direct sun.
Partial shade locations are sufficient for and tolerated by the red-tip photinia. Impressive plant specimens develop on the east or west sides of buildings, as well as under tall, open-branched trees such as pine. The edge of a woodland or grove works well as long as a minimum of four hours of direct sun is available daily. Avoid planting under dense-canopied trees like oak or southern magnolias, or on the north side of a tall building. In regions with long, hot summers or where it's arid, a partial-shade location improves the health and appearance of plants, according to the Learn2Grow plant database.
The red-tip photinia possesses many other environmental tolerances. Use freedom to relocate the planting location to slightly more sunlight, as this evergreen shrub handles hot, dry and seemingly infertile or inhospitable soils with ease. Avoid alkaline soils that are above 7.5 in pH. Lower branches may be removed to expose the shrub's trunk and make it look like a small tree. It is not fazed by air pollution in urban areas or soil compaction.
Additional Plant Facts
Grow red-tip photinia in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 7 through 9, where winter temperatures drop into the zero to -6.67 degrees Celsius range. Often grown as a hedge, it tolerates clipping well and homeowners readily keep it maintained between 10 and 15 feet tall. If left to mature without any pruning, over several decades you can expect one plant to become 20 to 25 feet tall and up to 20 feet wide. Shady conditions lead to thinner, lankier specimens with irregular habits.