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Mr. Smarty Plants - Using non-native Red-Tip Photinia as a mulch from Pittsburg TX

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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

QUESTION:

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

ANSWER:

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.

 

 

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