Photinia Red Robin QA


Article by DavidMarks
Our main Photinia Red Robin article can be found
. But sometimes our readersask specific questions which are not covered in the main article. This pagelists their comments, questions and answers.



Date: 9 May 2019 From: Josephine
QUESTION: We have a Red Robin in a pot which is about five years old and have just noticed the newgrowth of red leaves have become very dry and are falling off. It only seems to affected this years growth! Please can you advise.

ANSWER: It seems very likely that the hedge was providing protection to side of your Red Robin. Having takenit away, the relatively tender leaves have suffered more than rest of the shrub.

I would give it a light trim on the damaged side and hope for better things later on in the season or next year.

Date: 1 May 2019 From: Suzanne
QUESTION: We have a Red Robin in a pot which is about five years old and have just noticed the newgrowth of red leaves have become very dry and are falling off. It only seems to affected this years growth! Please can you advise.

ANSWER: If it has been in the same pot for five years it may well have outgrown it. I would repot it into alarger new pot adding new compost and a good handful of fish, blood and bone fertiliser. I would then trim off any affected stems.

If repotting is not an option, scoop away the top surface of the compost, replace with new potting compost, add fertiliser andtrim as described above.

Date: 9 March 2019 From: Lynne
QUESTION: I planted a Red Robin hedge about 6 weeks ago. The plants are about 3 to 4 foot highand growing well. Obviously the plants are spindly as they are new. When do you suggest that I should start to prune them? Is itjust a case of trimming them all to the same height to get the hedge the same height?

ANSWER: I would let the plant establish itself before pruning. Let it be this year and then next year prune itremoving the top 20% in April. After that, prune it in April and late June each year to the height you want.

Date: 9 March 2019 From: Lynne
QUESTION: Are Photinia Red Robin deer resistant please?

ANSWER: Very few plants are deer resistant if deer are really hungry. However, Photinia Red Robin will beone of the least attractive to deer.

Date: 9 September 2018 From: Jim C
QUESTION: I have just planted some red robin they are all about 3ft tall I mixed the soilwith bone fish and blood should I keep them watered regularly or just when it is dry.

ANSWER: When a Red Robin is established, a year or so after planting, it should be able to look afteritself as far as water is concerned except in extremely prolonged dry and hot periods.

For the first year however the roots are not very deep and regular watering my be required if rainfall is low. From Octoberto March, most areas of the UK receive sufficient rainfall for even newly planted plants, but not always.

Most newly planted shrubs have similar water requirements, and I have just planted some in my garden. Having planted the shrubs,I have watered them very well. I then mulched them (in my case with woodchip) to a depth of 5cm / 2in and to a width ofabout 45cm / 18in all around the shrub.

Because we are now in September I reckon, unusually low rainfall aside, that should be sufficient for this year. Keep an eyefor unusually dry weather of course, and water more if that occurs. Too much watering though can be as problematical astoo little water.

Date: 10 August 2018 From: Gerry
QUESTION: I recently planted 5 standard red robins to use as a hedge, unfortunatelydue to paving they are only about 6 inches from a wall, the wall is only about 3 feet high and I will be keeping thehedge at about 4 feet, will it survive that close to the wall. I really should have checked first butI am a compulsive typeof person and not very clued up on gardening yet.

ANSWER: That will almost certainly cause problems. The principal problem will be lack of water inthe summer. Planting shrubs close to a wall will result in very little rainfall penetrating to the roots.

Date: 21 June 2018 From: David
QUESTION I am looking to plant a row of pleached Red Robin in my rear garden forprivacy, against a 14m x 6ft fence. We found 6ft pleached trees at my localnursery, which have been grown in large pots.Is it still the right time to transplant these into soil and if so how should prepare the the soil?

ANSWER: The safest time of year to plant new Red Robins is mid September.
In theory you can plant a potted plant at any time of the year if you can supply the soil with sufficientmoisture. If youplanted them now, it would be the worst time of year to try and maintain the correct moisture level. Summer is here and theground will certainly dry out.

Judging how much moisture to give them is tricky. I have also heard that where this shrubis planted in summer it can initially suffer from leaf scorch. With such a large amount of plants, I certainly would not risk itat this time of year.

Date: 26 May 2018 From: Steven G
QUESTION I’m looking at buying 4 or 5 Photinia Red Robins for screening above my6ft fence. I have found the clear stem types with ball shape at the top total height 8ft (6ft stem). Would I be able tokeep it to this size with pruning or will the stem just keep growing leaving me with a say 10ft stem and ball at thetop.

ANSWER: The main stem will stop growing immediately the top is pinched out and the ballshape forms. The only thing which will increase in size is the ball of foliage. That will be minimal.

Date: 23 May 2018 From: Grainne M
QUESTION I have just brought a Photinia Little Red Robin can this shrub be grownin a Tub my gardening knowledge is limited?

ANSWER: Yes, you can grow Photinia Little Red Robin in a tub. As with all shrubs in a tub, keepit well watered and feed regularly

With Little Red Robin, I would suggest that, over winter, you keep it well out of the way of wind and close to aheated house wall. Little Red Robin is not quite as winter hardy as its larger version Red Robin.


Date: 13 May 2018 From: Patricia
QUESTION Planted 4 dwarf red robins last September in new shrub border butnow they are all without leaves and no visible buds. Should I pull them up.? Are planted in windy area but Ithought red robin tolerated exposed area?

ANSWER: When I tried to buy some dwarf Red Robins at my favourite garden centre a few yearsago I was warned that they are not as hardy as the full sized ones. Later investigation on the internet indicated thatthis was probably true.

If you have nothing except branches on your plants at this stage of the year then they are probably a lost cause.

Date: 29 April 2018 From: Sean
QUESTION I have a similar problem as Heidi. I’ve planted 14x 5 meter tall photinia.Some in ground, others in 1m square bottomless planters so they can tap into the bed below over time. They are allplanted in John inns no. 2 (loam base).

We planted in February this year during a really really wet period (we also had to drench them daily to soak root ball)…and then the beast from east came not long after.

They have dropped loads of leaves but still some left…and now loads of new growth at the tips (flower and leaf). Butthere are gaps now below new growth. I did prune off lots of the long spinderly branches that were about 1-2 meters inlength with only a little bit of leaf at the end. I did this when new shoots of new growth just started.

As said there is new growth so it’s not dead or anything..but my question is…
Will new shoots grow where the old leaves dropped off? Without trimming the top? If I prune the lowest branches(as done) will this help get the middle to old top leaves (that fell off) to regrowth?

ANSWER: If you have bought 14 plants which are 5 meters highthen I think that whoever sold them to you should really have advised you to buyand plant them in mid-spring or early autumn. That number of large plants is asubstantial investment and planting them in February was always going to beslightly risky. Still, we’ve had the beast from the east and you are where youare.

I personally would leave them well alone until late May and then decide whatto do. I would assume they will show more signs of regrowth by that time. Acceptthe fact that this harsh winter will mean that they won’t be at their best thisyear.

If they are starting to bush out in late May then I would trim the top 50cmoff and then leave them alone again for the rest of the year. Don’t prune themfrom July onwards because this will simply encourage new tender growth which maybe open to damage when winter 2018 comes along. Leave any stems lower down theplant alone now. They may not show signs of life this year but possibly couldnext year. The very best of luck.

Date: 28 April 2018 From: Dawn B
QUESTION In the rear, east facing, border of the house where we now live, there isa very mature photinia about 12 foot high which had been planted right against the fence. The lower limbs arecompletely bare up to around 6 feet but they have obviously been light seeking (due to shade from a copse behind theback fence) and are now at 45 degrees instead of upright. This has effectively foreshortened the 30 foot depth of thegarden by around 6-7 feet. Would it be possible to cut the limbs right back, in the hope of forcing new growth at thebase which can be trained upright, or is complete removal the only answer?

ANSWER: I haven’t personally been in this situation but Istrongly suspect that the Red Robin will
not regrow if you cut it down belowexiting stems / branches. Even if it does, regrowth is likely to be sporadic andtake a very long time.

Date: 07 April 2018 From: Stephen
QUESTION We planted pleached red robin trees inside the east and south walls of awalled garden four years ago. Those inside the eastern wall have done beautifully; those inside the southern wall lessso. One comment I had was those inside the southern wall would need better watering. The trunks are inside the walland the heads of the trees above the wall. Seeing your cautionary comments about not over watering, I wonder if theadvice I have received is valid, or is I should be using something to feed the roots of the less robust trees ?

ANSWER: A very interesting question and possibly quite complicated to come to the correctconclusion without viewing the site. Firstly, if the soil is the same for both aspects I would rule out changing the currentfeeding regime. Normally, unless the soil is very poor, Red Robin will look after itself. A couple of handfuls of fish, bloodand bone in spring will possibly help but it’s not crucial.

There are a few possible remaining factors as far as I see it, wind, rainfall and the amount of sun received. Let’s dealwith sun first. Unless you live outside of the UK, Red Robin will deal with any amount of sunshine. Next is wind, theprevailing wind in the UK is from the South West which means your east wall would receive more wind compared thesouth. That leaves rainfall and I suspect your east wall would receive more rain.

My conclusion would be, given you are growing against a wall, is that the south wall Red Robin are notreceivingsufficient water. The advice I give in my article assumed that the aspect would be open, apologies for notmentioningthat. So the other advice you received appears to be true. Possibly more so than you would suspect. Growing a shrubagainst a wall will definitely rob it of water, a south aspect will only make matters worse.

One half way house you could try would be to apply a thick mulch (8cm or so) around the Red Robin grown on thesouth wall. Water very well before you apply it.


Date: 05 April 2018 From: Heidi
QUESTION We have 4 Photinia Red Robin standards planted against a wall. Althoughthe tops are a foot above the wall. They have been planted for 18 months and have just lost most of their leaves.Is this normal as they look pretty bare now with just a few red shoots coming?

ANSWER: I have received several emails about the situation you mention.Not only are Photinias affected but Hypericums are also affected in a similar manner. My own Hypericum is affected,but when I look closely at the shrub it is clear that new shoots and growth are forming, they are just not developedsufficiently at the moment to affect the overall appearance of the shrub. My strong guess is your Photinia will recover bymid May.

It’s not normal, it has been caused by the recent prolonged cold spell in combination with strong winds. The snowprobably didn’t help as well. I would definitely wait and see what happens over the next six weeks or so.


Date: 22 February 2018 From: Christopher
QUESTION:I acquired a week ago five large Red Robin plants that are in 40/50 ltrlarge pots and these have been placed on my balcony near to the wall. I like the height of these plant/tree which isbetween 2.5 and 3m in height. The leaves on the tree are unfortunately droopy and some have browned. I plan to cut the branches back but given the cold weather in London in mid Feb should I cut the plant down now, orwait a few weeks or month? Any tips on improving the look of the leaves to make them more perkier and healthierrather than its current droopy lacklustre look? Should I add horse manure (collected from nearby Common).

ANSWER: I would prune it in late March to mid April,February is bit too early. For plants in containers I would avoid horse manure.A couple of handfuls of fish, blood and bone three or for times a year would bemy choice.

My concern would be your reference to droopy leaves. Although Red Robin tendsto look a bit bedragled at this time of year, the leaves which are thereshouldn’t be droopy. Have you watered correctly? Both under and over-wateringcan cause droopy leaves.

I would water when the top 5cm / 2in of the compost is dry, not before. Butcheck regularly. 3m high shrubs will loose a significant amount of water.

It sounds like the shrubs were in the lacklustre condition when you acquiredthem. It’s quite possible that the previous owner may not have watered themcorrectly and / or not fed them. If that’s the case, they will most likelyrecover soon with the correct care.

Date: 03 November 2017 From: Pat
QUESTION: I have recently moved into a house with two red robins in an easy facingborder. One is looking quite straggly. It seems to have lost a lot of leaves from the lower half, (it’s about 10ft high). IfI prune it down to 5/6ft, will it grow back bushier? It looks like it has buds on otherwise bare branches at lower levels.

ANSWER: Yes, I’m sure a 50% prune will encourage those lower buds to sprout. I would prune it in late Marchto mid April.

Date: 15 October 2017 From: Bernard
QUESTION: Our red robin 4 years old has thrived in full sun and is pruned in annually in June.After pruning this year it flourished and produced lots of new red leaf growth an looked really healthy. Over a matterof days the vivid redness has disappeared. Is this normal?

ANSWER: The red foliage normally lasts a few weeks. To encourage it I would prune it in spring, April toMay time and then prune again a couple of times to encourage more of the red foliage.

Date: 12 April 2017 From: Colin
QUESTION: Do red robin plants cause damage topublic highway paths if planted near to fence adjoining public path?

ANSWER: Every situation is different but as a general rule Red Robin shrubs are considerednon-invasive and are unlikely to damage nearby paths.

Date: 12 April 2017 From: Stephen H
QUESTION: I’m not sure who best to contact but I have a problem with what I think is a Photinia.

It has been in my garden for at least 20 years and has developed into more of a tree than a bush.Problem is that it’s starting to look as though it’s very unhappy, droopy leaves and looking dry.

I have cut one side back which looked very dead but I’d like to save the rest if I can as everyone comments on howlovely it is

We did wonder if it’s due to the decking we put around it but it should still get plenty of moisture from deep underground, we do water it as well.
Our soil is very sandy.

Hope you can give me some tips or maybe recommend somewhere else I can approach.

ANSWER: With decking around the tree it’s going to be very difficult to get the conditions at the rootscorrect. Under normal conditions an established photinia requires watering only in drought conditions. However you have sandysoil and the decking will cause the water to run away from the roots.

My guess is that it is indeed lacking water. The sheer size of the shrub and the amount of foliage will result insignificant evaporation.

On the other hand, to play devil’s advocate to myself, overwatering would drown the roots and cause the leaves to wiltas well. It all depends on how much you have watered the tree.

I would suggest that the only way you will find out is to remove a panel or two of the decking, three or four feetaway from the main trunk and see how moist or dry the soil is. Apologies for not being more specific.

Date: 6 May 2016 From: Mary
QUESTION: We planted a standard red robin about 8 years ago and it has a stem of about 3ft before it bushes out, it grows very well. Last year we planted another two (one each side of the original) but the stems are only about 2ft high at present. Will the stems naturally grow in height to match the original one or do we need to do anything i.e. pruning?

ANSWER: The stem itself won't grow any taller. Only the bushon top of the stem will grow in height if you don't prune it. There's nothingpractical you can do now.

Date: 6 May 2016 From: Mary
QUESTION: We planted 3 red robins in March in partial sun and free draining soil. Theyare 6 ft high. They were well watered in on planting and we have had a lot of rain (North Yorkshire) but the leaves arebeginning to droop. Is this due to current dry spell and should we just water freely at this stage? Thanks.

ANSWER: It's almost impossible to diagnose this type ofproblem with a newly planted shrub without actually seeing it. In generalthough, newly planted shrubs may well require watering in dry conditions for thefirst year or so. I would be surprised though if this was the cause of yourproblem at this time of year in North Yorkshire.

Too much water can drown the roots and this would have thesame effect on the leaves. In reality, anything which prevents the rootsabsorbing moisture will eventually cause the plant to droop. Large shrubsespecially are well known for being difficult to establish when they are moved.Are you sure that the surrounding soil has been firmed down well and is in goodcontact with the rootball.

You mention that they were planted in March and are 6ft high which indicatesthey would have been a costly addition to your garden. If there is a guaranteewith the plants I would take some pictures and ask the seller for theircomments.

Date: 27 April 2016 From: Tom
QUESTION: We have two Red Robins that initially thrived but now all the leaves have gone brown entirely – look almost burnt. They are positioned in partial sun and have had plenty of water.What would you recommend as the plant is still alive – cutting back or replanting?

ANSWER: Red Robins with significant areas of brownleaves are a sign of too much moisture or too little. In most cases itis because of too much water. Heavy clay is not their ideal soil and should beimproved with lots of
well rotted organic matter
and horticultural grit at planting time. Evenafter they are planted the addition of organic matter under the canopy of theshrub will help especially if gently mixed in with the surface soil. Worms willtake it down further and encourage better drainage.

Be careful of watering by hand. Even in dry weather a Red Robin should beable to find enough water from its roots. Unless the ground is exceptionally dryI would avoid watering altogether after the plant has been in the ground for ayear.

 It is worth while cutting back your Red Robin if you also improve thesoil conditions at the same time.

Date: 23 April 2016 From: Jenny D
QUESTION: We are trying to grown a photinia hedge behind our low front wall and really want the height to increase this year but I wonder should I trim the bottom shoots off to encourage growth at the top? I’m worried doing that will leave the bottom looking bare forever

ANSWER: Red Robin does tend to become a bit bare at thebase, especially if the top is not trimmed occasionally. So, I wouldn't advisetrimming off the bottom, it may well go bare and the only way to re-encouragethe base to grow would be to trim the top off. That would be self-defeating asfar as your objective is concerned. It's simply a matter of waiting  forthe shrub to grow naturally.

Date: 22 April 2016 From: Barry
QUESTION: We are looking to get this as a hedge – can it be bought as such? A landscaper is recommending we buy 6 red robin plants, but (stand alone) these look wispy and bare! We were hoping to have a lovely lush hedge from the ground up.

ANSWER: Photinia Red Robin make an ideal hedge. When young,the plants will look wispy and insubstantial, as would any shrub, but give themthree years and they will look fine. Because you are planning to buy six or so Iwould first look around your neighbourhood to see if other gardeners are growingRed Robin. If is grows well in your area you will almost certainly find it inother gardens nearby because it is very popular. If you can't find any growinglocally, I would be a bit wary that it may not suit your local conditions.

Date: 25 March 2016 From: janice
QUESTION: I have a red robin which I plantedlast year the the tips of new red leaves are black and curling inwards theyalmost look burned. Other than that the plant looks very healthy. Any ideas?

ANSWER: The explanation of what you describe is that youngfoliage has grown because of relatively warm weather and then a much coolerperiod with some frost has damaged the leaf tips. This does happen with a largenumber of shrubs in some years and I don't believe it indicates any diseaseproblem. With such a strong growing shrub I feel sure it will grow out of it ina month or so.

Date: 2 September 2015 From: Lee
QUESTION: I’d like to plant this as a hedge, I can find information on spacing but not on how far from the fence I should plant. Could you please tell me if I wanted to keep this as a 5ft hedge how wide would it need to be to let the plant mature properly? Thank you

ANSWER: When grown against a wall or fence then the plantsshould be at least 60cm / 2ft from the wall or fence. If they are planted anynearer they may suffer from lack of moisture at the roots because the base ofwalls and fences will not receive as much rainfall as in an open position.