Photinia × fraseri 'Red Robin'
Common Name: Fraser photinia
Type: Broadleaf evergreen
Family: Rosaceae
Zone: 7 to 9
Height: 9.00 to 12.00 feet
Spread: 9.00 to 12.00 feet
Bloom Time: April to May
Bloom Description: White
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Hedge
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Leaf: Colorful, Evergreen
Fruit: Showy
Other: Winter Interest
Tolerate: Drought

Culture

Winter hardy to USDA Zone 7 (Zone 6 with protection) where it is easily grown in average, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Tolerates full shade, but with less flowering and more susceptibility to leaf spot disease. Somewhat drought tolerant once established. Propagate by cuttings. Avoid wet soils. Water root zones (avoid getting water on the leaves). Site plants in areas with good air circulation. Prune in winter to thin (better air circulation). Prune in spring after red growth begins to fade in order to encourage additional red new growth. Shrubs grown in USDA Zone 6 should be sited in protected areas such as the southern or western sides of buildings.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Photinia x fraseri is a large, hybrid (P. glabra and P. serrulata), evergreen shrub that typically grows to 10-15' tall and as wide. It is often commonly called red tip or red top (particularly in the deep South where it has been frequently planted) in celebration of the bronze red to bright red new leaves that emerge at the twig tips each spring. This hybrid was originally discovered at Fraser Nursery in Birmingham, Alabama around 1940, and was subsequently introduced into commerce in 1955 as Photina x fraseri 'Birmingham' ('Birmingham' was later dropped). 'Red Robin' is a slightly more compact cultivar that was bred in New Zealand. It has brighter red color on new foliage. Leathery, oval, dark green leaves (to 3-4" long) with finely serrated margins are evergreen. New growth in spring emerges bright red in a showy display lasting about 2-3 weeks. Red leaves gradually change to glossy dark green. Additional pruning may encourage new flushes of red leaves in late spring and summer. Small, 5-petaled, white flowers (1/3" across) of this rose family shrub bloom in late April in wide, corymbose panicles (to 5-6" long). Flowers have a very unpleasant aroma, somewhat reminiscent of hawthorns. Flowers may be eliminated by spring pruning geared to stimulate new red leaf growth. Fruit is a red pome that persists throughout winter to spring.

Problems

Photinia x fraseri is susceptible to a significant, in some cases defoliating, leaf spot disease (Entomosporium maculatum) which is particularly troublesome in areas of the deep South where high humidity and moist conditions are prevalent. Heavy use of this hybrid in the deep South is now declining because of this disease. Plants further north (as those in USDA Zone 7) are typically not affected. 'Red Robin' reportedly has better resistance to this leaf spot disease. Fireblight and powdery mildew may also occur.

Garden Uses

Borders and woodland gardens. Specimen. Hedge. Screen.