En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Wednesday - March 23, 2011

From: Pittsburg, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives, Compost and Mulch, Shrubs
Title: Using non-native Red-Tip Photinia as a mulch from Pittsburg TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford


Wondering if its ok to use Red Tip Phontinia as a mulch? thanks


The red-tip photinia is non-native to North America, originating in the Far East. At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, we are committed to the planting, protection and propagation of plants native to North America. Native plants are recommended because they are adapted to an area's soil, rainfall, heat (or cold), and so require less water, less fertilizer, less maintenance. Unfortunately, the red tip photinia has been widely overused because it is cheap, fast-growing and the red leaves in the Spring are quite attractive.

In this Mississippi State University Extension Service Red-tip Photinia Almost Eliminated, you will likely find out more about the fungal threats to the plant. Here is a quote from this article:

"Red-tip is highly susceptible to the fungal pathogen known as Entomosporium that causes leaf spots and ultimately defoliation. The disease has all but eliminated Red-tip from the list of recommended shrubs for Southern landscapes. In fact, the disease is so widespread that one plant pathologist jokingly explained that there are two types of Red-tip, those that have the disease and those that are going to get it! So, even though newly planted Red-tip bushes may stay disease free for many years, ultimately they will succumb to the inevitable."

Cotton Root Rot is also responsible for the loss of many ornamental plants in clay soil, and photinias are especially vulnerable. This article by Lynn Rawe from the Texas A&M Home Horticulture site describes the symptoms. There is no cure.

If you choose to use the leaves from the photinia as a mulch, they should first be composted long enough to thoroughly break down the leaves, and in a hot enough compost to kill any fungus or disease that might be lurking in those leaves. In fact, any organic material used as a mulch should first have gone through the decomposing process of composting. If it does not, nitrogen will be stolen from the soil to assist in the decomposition, which will harm the roots of the plants you are mulching.



More Non-Natives Questions

Winter care for non-native ice plant in Virginia
August 15, 2008 - I have an ice plant in my garden and it is doing very well. What would be the care for winter. Ground seldom freezes, temperatures mostly 20 but can get in single digit occasionally. Very little snow ...
view the full question and answer

Non-native, invasive Datura sprouting from compost
September 26, 2005 - Hi, I have a plant growing out of some compost we purchased this spring and no one can tell me what it is. It's about 4 ft. tall, the stem is maroon like rhubarb and it produces 4-5 in. tubular lig...
view the full question and answer

Identification of yellow fruit with many fingers
December 24, 2012 - This is a yellow lemon smelling fruit with many fingers. Yellow in color. Looks like an octopus.
view the full question and answer

Pruning of non-native chocolate mimosa
August 07, 2008 - I have a one year old chocolate mimosa that has grown 2.5 feet in height. It has seven leaf stems two feet from the bottom and only three at the top canopy. The trunk is only three quarters of an inch...
view the full question and answer

Dandelions in bluebonnets in Bastrop TX
May 31, 2012 - I have a 20'x60' front yard area where I planted bluebonnets. It has become horrifically inundated with dandelions. How do I eradicate the dandelions while preserving the bluebonnets ? Thanks ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center