General gardening topics

How to Grow Photinia Red Robin and Care Guide

Our site is reader supported, this means we may earn a small commission from Amazon and other affiliates when you buy through links on our site.

As an experienced gardener who has worked in my family’s nursery for well over 20 years, one shrub that has consistently been a favourite of mine is the Photinia ‘Red Robin’. It’s actually one of many different varieties of Photinias, however, ‘Red Robin’ is by far the most popular. There is also a smaller variety called ‘Little Red Robin’, but it’s smaller not just in overall size but also has smaller leaves. Over the years, while working on the nursery, I’ve recommended this evergreen shrub to hundreds of customers and I’ve always had good feedback. It’s a versatile and brilliant shrub for lots of situations, from use as tall screening plant, creating a compact hedge, or simply planting as an ornamental shrub or focal point in the garden. It works well in many situations and is a good choice for less green-fingered people.

Photinia Red robin new red growth

To start, I have found it to be one of the easier-to-grow shrubs; it doesn’t require any specific care other than a bit of trimming and will still thrive in most soils; it’s also very forgiving and resilient. With its glossy green leaves, which emerge crimson red in Spring, which for me is what really separates this shrub from other shrubs such as laurels. It’s simply a breathtaking ornamental shrub, ideal for hedges, borders, or even as a potted specimen on your patio. They also look fantastic when trained against a wall against a trellis.

Photinia red robin hedge grown along side a horse paddock

When it comes to eventual size, it typically reaches a manageable height of 8 to 12 feet if left to its own. However, it can easily be maintained to any size with a little pruning with a decent pair of pruners; this also encourages vibrant red growth, making it perfect for both small and large spaces. While they may occasionally suffer from leaf spots, which I go into more detail about further down, it’s harmless and caused by cold weather, but they recover naturally in summer.

Black spots on Photinia red robin with black spots on foliage caused by winter weather and not a disease
Black spots on Photinia red robin with black spots on foliage caused by winter weather and not a disease

On the plus side, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has recognized the excellence of the Photinia Red Robin by awarding it the prestigious Award of Garden Merit. This award speaks volumes about its reliability and appeal in the world of gardening.

HardinessIt will grow in all parts of the UK and is very hardy; however, it doesn’t like cold winds, and this can damage new foliage in spring.
Soil TypeIt prefers moist, well-drained soil but will grow well in nearly all soil types, including clay if you dig some peat and compost in before planting.
SunIt will grow well in full sun or partial shade.
Garden sizeIt can be grown in any size garden and even in pots. They can grow very big if left unpruned (5m – 15ft) but they can handle being pruned regularly to keep it at 3-4ft if needed.
MaintenanceThey are very easy to care for with very little maintenance required, only pruning if necessary, but they can also be left to grow into a large shrub.
ProblemsThe only common problem is black spots on the leaves; however, this is not thought to be caused by disease or fungus and is more stress-related.

Grows to 12-15ft metres it can just as easily be kept at 3-4ft by pruning once or twice a year

photinia red robin new red growth

Is very hardy but unfavourable conditions, usually harsh weather can cause black spots on leaves

Photinia is a very hardy shrub that can be grown in almost every area of the UK; in fact, it can survive the coldest parts of the UK where the temperature drops to -12 degrees Celsius. However, Photinia is known to suffer from stress that can cause black spots on the leaves. This is usually caused by cold winds in exposed areas, so it may be better planted in a more sheltered position. If your plant does get black spots, it will recover and doesnt actually harm the plant and usually recovers in summer once the new spring foliage replaces the older foliage.

Photinia is grown for its bright red leaves and will produce clusters of white flowers if not pruned

Photinia red robin flowers
Photinia Red Robin flowers

Photinia is not really known for flowers but they do produce tiny white flowers around June if not pruned. What it does give you instead of flowers are beautiful bright red leaves that start to turn deep green as they mature, which is why most people choose to have Photinias and what they are really known for.

Best growing conditions

Grows in nearly all soil types, including clay if you mix compost into the clay to improve drainage

Photinia will thrive in all soil types except heavy waterlogged or clay soils. If you do have clay soil, then adding some peat and compost can usually make it good enough for Photinias to grow.

They prefer a sunny position but can also thrive in partial shade as long as they get several hours of sun.

Once Photinia establishes itself, they are fairly low maintenance with only occasional pruning needed to keep them in check and they are also fairly draught tolerant too.

Photinia ‘Red Robin’ make fantastic hedging plants

Photinia red robin hedge growing along my driveway
Photinia red robin hedge growing along my driveway

Being a versatile shrub, you can grow Photinia as a hedge, you can also grow it against a fence or fence and train it against trellis work which means it is also perfect for forming a large screen, or you can grow it as a specimen plant, and even allow it to do well in containers but it does then need watering regularly.

How to plant Photinias

When you are ready to plant Photinias, choose an area that has full sun to partial shade. Your Photinia will need proper air circulation, so if you have it set up against the wall or a fence, it will do just fine as long as you don’t place it right against the wall or fence because this area tends to be dry as it asks as a rain break.

If you have heavy soil and it doesn’t drain well, add compost or some organic matter to lighten the soil and help improve drainage. The ideal time to plant is between the middle of March and the beginning of April or the beginning of October while the ground is still warm, so it should put some roots out ready for winter. That being said most people plant shrubs in summer which will be fine, just make sure you keep on top of the watering until it is established,

Once you are ready for planting, dig a hole that is twice the size of your root ball, add a handful of compost or even a handful of bone meal and mix in the soil well. Place your Photinia in the hole and fill it with soil until it reaches the same depth as the root ball was in the pot. At that point fill in around the root ball and firmly pack down the soil in a gentle fashion. Water it well to make sure that the roots get settled.

If you are growing your Photinias as a hedge, plant them 60-90cm (2-3ft) apart in order to achieve proper density. If you are growing them against a wall, the plants need to be at least 60cm from the wall or the fence in question, as previously mentioned. If you plant them any closer to one another, they will suffer from a lack of moisture and air circulation problems, and if pruned, they will quickly establish themselves and fill out.

Growing Photinia in containers

You can put a single Red Robin in a large container; it really depends on the size of the Red Robin you buy; the larger, the better because it gives them plenty of room to grow.

Fill the container with a shrub compost. Water and feed it regularly between the middle of March and the middle of August. When it is in a container it will require regular watering. Once you see the top 3cm is dry, add water. You can prune in the same way you would prune a regular plant in order to maintain your desired shape and size for the container.

How to care for Photinia

Close up of Photinia red robin and general care

Once your Photinia has established itself, it will take care of itself quite well, which is one of the things I love about them. In fact, they will grow happily without you needing to add additional feed to the soil or even regular watering. Ideally, you may need to prune them once or twice each year to maintain the shape and size of your plants and also encourage the vibrant red foliage.

Red Robins can sometimes drop their leaves throughout the year (more frequently than most shrubs). This, however, is fairly normal and not something to worry about unless you notice other signs of stress, such as spotted leaves or wilting.

How to prune Photinia

Pruning is not essential except for controlling the size and shape

If you don’t prune photinias, they will grow very happily, and they will become almost a small tree or very large shrub approximately 5 metres tall and wide in around 8 to 10 years given the right growing conditions, fertile soil, plenty of sun and, more importantly, no pruning. However, when young and for the first few years, I recommend pruning them anyway to encourage a bushy compact plant.

Only prune until July to protect new growth from early frosts

New red growth on Photinia red robin which is at risk from frost early in the season or late in the season if pruned too late

If you want a smaller shrub, maybe as a specimen, you can prune it anytime between March and the middle of July. Ideally, you want to try and avoid pruning after the end of July because the younger red shoots that are produced after pruning are very soft and they can be damaged if we have an early frost late in the season. It won’t kill the plant, but it will look unsightly and is best avoided if possible. The same happens in spring if we have a late frost but there is not much you can do about it. If new growth does get damaged, they will recover a few weeks to months later as new growth shoots again.

You can cut back your Photinia severely using a good pair of loppers and it will almost always come back. If your plant has gotten out of control, you can prune it back hard in May when the plant is strongest, and it will come back stronger than ever.

Diseases to watch put for

Honey fungus

Honey fungus is a fungal disease that will spread underground from another tree or plant to the root system of your Red Robin, we have discussed this previously as a problem that can affect Lilacs.

If you see an unhealthy plant that has white fungus appearing around the ground level and sometimes under the bark, you can carefully dig in the direction of the roots to verify, and you will find that the fungus is usually present on the roots. If your Photinia is the only plant you see with any signs of distress, chances are it’s not a honey fungus because this would impact other plants nearby.

If, however, you have determined that it is honey fungus the only sensible option you have is to dig up your Photinia and burn it, alongside any other plants that are impacted because there is no current chemical treatment for this disease.

How to take Photinia cuttings

The process below is the same whether you take softwood cuttings in the early summer or semi-hardwood cutting in the summer or autumn.

  1. It is very easy to propagate Photinia and the chances of success are quite high.
  2. Start by taking several cuttings at the end of July through to the beginning of September. Also, take a few to increase your chances of at least 1-2 cutting taking.
  3. It is recommended that you take a cutting that is longer than you need so that you can make the final cut when you are ready to plant it.
  4. Choose a stem that is approximately 2mm thick and take a cutting right below the leaf node that is approximately 8cm in length. This should be semi-ripe growth, neither too soft nor too hard.
  5. Remove any lower leaves from the cutting (as you do with all cuttings).
  6. Get small pots approximately 8cm wide and evenly space the three cuttings about 4cm deep.
  7. Place some compost on top and gently pack it down. Put the pot in a shallow tray of water for at least half an hour so that it absorbs enough moisture at the root system.
  8. Cover the container with cling-wrap or a small plastic bag making sure that the leaves are not touching the top.
  9. Place the pot in a shaded and cool area, or in a cold frame if you are lucky enough to have one.

It should take about two to three weeks for you to see the cutting to root. At that point, you need to remove the plastic bag and allow it to grow slightly larger, unhindered by any plastic. You can put it in its final position in your garden in April or May after any frost danger has passed and when it has a root system. It may be worth leaving it in the pot until next spring to increase the chances of it transplanting successfully.

Where to buy

Photinia Red Robin
  • Bushy photinia red Robin plants
  • Planted in a 10 litre Pot
  • Ideal for hedges or stand alone specimen
  • Fully winter hardy for whole of the UK
Photinia Red Robin
  • Supplied Height: 5-6ft
  • Characteristics: Vivid young glossy bright red leaves with finely serrated edges. Clusters of white flowers in spring. Evergreen.
  • Flowering: Ivory white flowers in mid spring.
  • Height and Spread: 4m / 4m. Screening tree. Can be pruned into a hedge.
  • Hardiness and Best Position: Hardy, frost hardy to -8°C. Sheltered position is best

Last update on 2024-07-09 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Welcome to my site, my name is John and I have been lucky enough to work in horticultural nurseries for over 15 years in the UK. As the founder and editor as well as researcher, I have a City & Guilds Horticultural Qualifications which I proudly display on our About us page. I now work full time on this website where I review the very best gardening products and tools and write reliable gardening guides. Behind this site is an actual real person who has worked and has experience with the types of products we review as well as years of knowledge on the topics we cover from actual experience. You can reach out to me at

Write A Comment