Photinia is an evergreen shrub which many people will recognize and know by the common cultivar Red Robin. However, Photinia's make up a genus of over 50 shrubs and small trees. In 1943 a Photinia seedling was discovered at the Fraser Nurseries in Birmingham Alabama in America. This tiny seedling was a hybrid of Photinia glabra and Photinia serratifolia. So Photinia x fraseri was born and the cultivar Red Robin by far the most popular of the species here in Britain, was bred in New Zealand. Photinias found wild have a wide natural range which spans from North America to the Himalayas, through India and on into Thailand. Several species can also be found in Japan. It is now cultivated and planted in gardens and municipal parks throughout the World. Photinia is a name which comes from the Greek word Photeinos meaning glossy, probably because of its shiny leaves.
Photinia x Fraseri Red Robin can be grown either on its own as a specimen shrub or combined as a hedge. I have also seen them looking very handsome as a standard. Red Robins grow quite fast, on average 12 inches (30cm) a year, and can reach as high as 15- 18ft (5mtrs +) and over time can spread equally as wide. Here in Britain the shrub starts sprouting its shiny red new shoots in mid March. By April the red leaves have fully opened and white flowers with a pink tinge appear from May. There is also the similar Photinia x Fraseri Cracklin Red Parred which is smaller and grows to around 5-6ft (2 mtrs) and a dwarf shrub Photinia x Fraseri Little Red Robin 2-3ft (60-90cm).
Planting and Pruning
Red Robin is a shrub that is very easy to grow and once planted requires minimal maintenance. They are happy in either full sun or partial shade and will tolerate most soil types if reasonably fertile and well drained. Dig a hole twice the size of the pot or bare root and add in plenty of compost with a handful of fish blood and bone meal. Water well in and keep watering until the plant has become established. Watering is particularly important during the Summer months in the first year. Pruning is only required to keep the shape of the shrub so a light trim now and again through the Summer should be fine. This is especially important if you want to keep a hedge in shape. If a more substantial prune is required to reduce height or width it is best done in the early part of the Summer after the best of its flowers are over. Occasionally you may notice in Spring as the new shots appear that some leaves have brown purple spots on them (see picture 1 top). This is a sure sign the plant has become stressed over the Winter by harsh conditions or cold winds. Give the plant a good feed of Growmore or similar and mulch some humus rich compost around the base.
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