Pests, Diseases and Common Problems with Photinias

Photinias are a popular hedging choice – with their gorgeous red leaves that turn green as they mature, they make a striking addition to any garden. Here at Hopes Grove Nurseries, we stock a wide range of Photinia plants. Whether you’re looking for evergreen or deciduous varieties, pleached trees or hedges or topiaries, we have you covered. 

Photinias sometimes acquire a reputation for being susceptible to pests, diseases and other problems, but in most cases these issues are highly treatable, especially if they are caught early. This is a guide to all the problems you may see affect your Photinias. Armed with the knowledge of how to diagnose and treat the problem early, you will be able to ensure that your Photinia plants thrive for a long time.

Photinia Diseases

There are several diseases that Photinias can be susceptible to. Here are the three most likely diseases to infect Photinias:

Leaf spot disease is a fungal disease in which red/brown spots will appear on the Photinia’s leaves, slowly spreading until they can potentially harm the plant. You must act quickly to stop this from taking over the plant – remove and burn any affected leaves, making sure not to leave any on the ground, and if it’s possible you should also isolate the Photinia to stop the disease from spreading to the surrounding plants. You can also use fungicides to protect the remaining tissue from disease.

Powdery Mildew is another fungal disease, wherein greyish-white patches of mildew appear on the leaves of the Photinia. This is likely to occur if the plant is damp and humid. Crowding Photinias in with other plants and failing to properly prune the interior branches stops air from circulating the plant and keeping it dry. Making sure the Photinia is pruned thoroughly once or twice a year and has plenty of space is the key to preventing Powdery Mildew. You can also use fungicides here for good measure

Fireblight is a bacterial disease (usually striking in the summer) that attacks young shoots of Photinias, causing them to dry up, go brown and die. There is no chemical solution to this problem, so treating Fireblight too late can be fatal to the plant. We recommend pruning back to the healthy branches as soon as possible (even hard pruning if you want to be safe) – you can check where the healthy growth is by doing a thumbnail scraping on the bark of the stems, where you find it to be a pale creamy green or yellow, that is a healthy branch!  Applying copper bactericides also  helps to keep the plant healthy. Alternatively, adding some nitrogen to the plant in the early summer can be a strong preventative measure, as nitrates are essential to ensure healthy growth in plants. 

Copper bacterium and nitrogen fertilisers can also treat venturia inaequalis, which is also known as “scab” or “apple scab” as it most commonly affects apple trees. This can affect Photinias too, so taking some preventative measures is no bad thing. 

Photinia Pests

There are several common pests which you may find are attacking the Photinias in your garden. Mites, for instance, attach themselves to a number of plants, sucking the nutrient-filled sap from the leaves and leaving them discoloured. Pesticides may deter mites, but if you’d prefer an organic solution, horticultural oils like neem oil should do the trick. 

Scale insects are harmful in a number of ways – they go after the nutrients locked in plant leaves too, but can sometimes also leave a residue known as “honeydew” which attracts ants and aphids and can result in sooty mould too. If you want to use insecticides to kill or scale insects you will need to be liberal, as their hard shells protect them against this kind of intervention. Apply twice as much as you would for mites. Otherwise, you can use neem oil to coat and suffocate the insects, which also dries up any sooty mould. 

Finally, green aphids are harmful pests to Photinias. They attack the younger shoots of plants, which must be protected to ensure healthy growth. Apply a mixture of Potassium soap and Neem oil as soon as you see aphids appear or a good quality pesticide spray, always following the instructions.

Common Problems with Photinias

The most common problems with Photinias are environmental – Photinias thrive best in sunnier spots and do not need to be watered frequently, so shady, waterlogged sites may impact their health. 

Photinias can be susceptible to frost damage – the best way to prevent this is to make sure you don’t prune the plant at all after August, as any resulting new growth will be the most vulnerable to frost. You should also shelter the plants from cold winds if you can. Otherwise, this issue is mostly an eyesore and does not have to impact the Photinia in the long term – trimming away any affected branches once your garden has thawed in the springtime should prepare the Photinias for a new season of growth.

Root rot may also occur when the soil is too wet. The best way to stop this from causing too much damage to the plant is to ensure you plant it in well drained soil – adding grit to the planting area if necessary can significantly improve drainage and help avoid your Photinia sitting with ‘wet feet’.  Alternatively, for more established plants, uproot it very carefully and cut away the affected roots, but this may be difficult to do if the plant is firmly established. Another solution is to improve soil drainage, and there are many ways to achieve this. You can introduce more worms to the garden, which will aerate the soil. You could also apply mulch to the top layer of soil, which by retaining water will eliminate the need to water the garden as frequently. You may also wish to make your own compost or leaf rot for this purpose, as they also improve the quality of the soil.

To reduce the chances of both of these problems, we recommend planting or re-planting the Photinia in a sunny place if you are able to.

Alternative Hedging Plants with Hopes Grove Nurseries

Photinias will flourish in the right conditions, but if your garden is too shady or waterlogged to sustain Photinia hedging, here are some of our favourite alternatives:

  • Box hedging (buxus, or boxwood): This species is versatile and hardy, which makes it a staple in most gardens. It does far better than Photinias in shadier areas. 
  • Hornbeam hedging: Hornbeam plants thrive in windy and exposed sites, far less likely to be damaged by cold winds and frosts, so they are ideal for less protected sites. 

Laurel Portugal hedging: We stock many different types of Laurel hedging, and among them there is bound to be one that suits your purposes! Whether you want something fast-growing like Common Laurel or aromatic like Bay Laurel, we have an option for you.

Hopes Grove Nurseries is the UK’s leading specialist in hedges and hedging plants, home to over a million different hedging plants in a wide variety of species. Contact us today if you have any queries about Photinia plants and how to care for them. 

You may also find our guide to Common Pests, Diseases and Problems with Laurel Hedge Plants Useful