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

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Wednesday - April 11, 2012

From: Monroe, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Non-Natives, Shrubs
Title: Non-native photinias in Monroe NY
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Two Questions: Is the weather too cold to plant red tip photinias in Monroe NY? What is a good alternative evergreen shrub to hide chain link fence?

ANSWER:

From an article from Mississippi State University:

"Red-Tip Photinias Almost Eliminated:

Ten years ago, one of the most popular shrubs in the South was the Red-tip Photinia (Photinia fraseri). Everybody wanted this handsome evergreen shrub and it was widely grown by Southern nursery growers for use in both commercial and residential landscapes.

Red-tip is a wonderful, large, evergreen shrub with attractive foliage and showy white flowers. Its claim to fame is brilliant red new foliage that appears in the spring.

Nevertheless, in the last ten years or so, Red-tip has gone from the top of the list to the bottom due to intense pressure from a devastating fungal disease.

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."

You will notice this refers to "Southern Landscapes," so we went hunting for the USDA Hardiness Zones in which it can live. Orange County, NY, at the northern edge of the New York Metropolitan area, is in USDA Hardiness Zone 6a, with average annual minimum temperatures of -10 to -5 deg. F. From this Dave's Garden article on the plant, we learned that the photinia needs USDA Hardiness Zones from 7a to 9b. You might also be interested in reading some of the comments from others who have raised it.

Since the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is dedicated to the growth, protection and propagation of plants native not only to North America but to the areas in which the plant normally grows, this will not be in our Native Plant Database. Red-tip photinia is native to warm temperate Asia from the Himalaya east to Japan and south to India and Thailand.

So, we will search our Native Plant Database for evergreen shrubs native to New York. There will not be a lot of choices in your climate, but we found 6 possibilities. Since you did not designate a height or amount of sunlight, you will need to read the complete description of each plant in our Native Plant Database. Click the link on each plant to go to our webpage on that plant for information.

Evergreen Shrubs for New York:

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (Kinnikinnick)

Ilex glabra (Inkberry)

Leucothoe fontanesiana (Drooping leucothoe)

Ledum groenlandicum (Bog labrador tea)

Mahonia aquifolium (Holly-leaf oregon-grape)

Rhododendron maximum (Great laurel)

 

From the Image Gallery


Kinnikinnick
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Inkberry
Ilex glabra

Highland doghobble
Leucothoe fontanesiana

Bog labrador tea
Ledum groenlandicum

Holly-leaved barberry
Mahonia aquifolium

Great laurel
Rhododendron maximum

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Identification of plant with orange sap that glows at night
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