Replacement ideas for Red-tip Photinias

tx_ag_95(7/8 Lewisville)March 28, 2014

Hi all,

My father got snip-happy with trimming plants in the backyard for me and trimmed up the bottom branches of one section of the photinia hedge that covers the chain-link fence. "I wanted to clean up underneath it." In case the plants don't want to replace the branches he cut off, what can I replace them with? It's full to part sun, I think the neighbor waters regularly (it's a small section of fence, I've never had to worry about them before!) and I will water them until they get established. I want something that's either native or adapted or close to it and evergreen, that gets 6' or so in height. The photinia that I inherited with the house work OK but get too tall for their own good and want to get too wide for the space. I also have nandina, but I'd like to eventually replace both of them with more native plants. I know, I want a lot! :)

If anyone has any bright ideas, I'd love to see them.


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Boxwood has done exceptionally well for me against an east wall, full sun, hardly any freeze damage from the ridiculous weather we had this year.

Burford holly and dwarf Burford holly are also reliable in the north Texas area.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 9:56AM
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If I follow you, you aren't yet looking to replace the photinias, but want something to fill in the lower open spaces left by your father. I take it you would like to conceal the fence. Photinias, like most shrubs, will turn into small trees, if allowed to do so. To keep them bushy, you have to prune the lower branches, from time to time. This will encourage new growth. Did you father trim the branches flush with the trunk? If so, it is doubtful you will see any new growth. You should also trim some of the nandina canes back every year.

I doubt there are any shrubs native to your area of the state suitable for a screening hedge.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 10:30AM
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I have the 'Native and Adapted Landscape Plants' booklet put out for Central Texas. I know it's not your area of the state but they do have recommendations for replacing invasives.

To replace Nandina (berrying varieties) try:

Bush Germander - Teucrium fruticans. Not a Texas native. 4-6' height and 4-6' spread. Sun/part shade. evergreen, low water needs.

Texas Sage - Leucophyllum frutescens. Texas native. 4-5' height and 4-5' spread. Sun, evergreen, low water. Don't shear.

Barbados Cherry - Malpighia galbra. Native to Edwards Plateau (shallow limestone/caliche soil). 4-6' height and 3-5' spread sun/part shade, semi-evergreen, low to moderate watering needed. May be difficult to find. Responds well to shaping. Evergreen above 25*F.

To replace Chinese Photinia try:

Evergreen Sumac - Rhus virens. Native to Edwards Plateau 8-10' height and 6-8' spread sun/shade, evergreen, low water, prune as needed, needs good drainage

Evergreen Yaupon (I'm leaving it out as it gets 12' to 20' tall and says to prune for shape only)

Here is a link that might be useful: Texas AgriLife Extension

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 4:51PM
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Perhaps someone will be kind enough to explain why, all else being equal, a resident in one area of Texas should prefer a plant native only to another area to one native to South Carolina or, for that matter, Madagascar.

Might I inquire what the evidence is for the proposition that photinias are "invasive" in North Texas?

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 5:26PM
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I've never cared about whether a plant is native or not, but I guess some people do. You'd have to ask tx_ag_95.

I'm not sure that they're invasive in North Texas. I moved from Austin to south Texas and brought a volunteer photinia that had cropped up in my yard there (there were a few others that I brought but they were smaller and I neglected to water them.) so I guess they get established pretty easily.

The list from the booklet I have (that included nandina and photinia) says "The following plants have already invaded preserves and greenbelts in Austin. They spread by seeds, berries, and spores that can be easily transported long distances. For a more extensive list, visit"

I think ultimately what makes a plant invasive is that it chokes out the native or adapted plants. This could change what animals are able to live in the region and affect species diversity. The booklet says that if you already have invasives that most can be controlled by trimming back berries, seedheads or runners. There is one that it says is illegal to sell and that's Giant Cane - Arundo donax.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 6:57PM
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carrie751(z7/8 TX)

I have photinias that are over twenty years old, and they have never produced another plant anywhere on my seven acres. I don't know what variety they are, but not all are invasive.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 9:25PM
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tx_ag_95(7/8 Lewisville)

I want to replace the photinias because they're not native, not because they are invasive. Like Carrie, I haven't seen them reproduce in the ten years I've been here. They seem to be happy here, no mildew or anything, but...if I'm going to replace them, I want something that's either native or better adapted.

I don't know if that section gets enough sun for the cenizo, it's actually a stretch that I'd intended to leave alone for the time being. Even if it gets enough sun, the cenizo I planted in the front yard drops leaves and gets pretty open in the winter.

As Carrie knows, I look for plants that don't need a lot of human maintenance. I want them to grow and thrive without any added help, once they get established. I'm mostly OK with an annual cleanup, but not so much for a hedge. I don't have her acres, but the yard's big enough that it needs to be easy-maintenance. I'm guessing the photinias are 50 years old, as that's how old the house is and they look to be original. The hollies are probably the default answer for me, as anything native to the Edward's Plateau isn't going to like the black clay gumbo soil that I have. :(

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 9:45PM
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roselee z8b S.W. Texas

What about Wax myrtle?

Here is a link that might be useful: A 6-12 ft., multi-trunked, evergreen shrub,

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 9:16AM
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"Southern wax myrtle inhabits sandy swamps and moist woodlands in east and east-central Texas. . . .It is evergreen in USDA Zone 8, and semi-evergreen in Zone 7" (Texas Native Plants Database--aggie-horticulture.)

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 9:49AM
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Yaupons and wax myrtles both do OK without full sun. I think some of the 'dwarf' varieties might get big enough if you don't prune them. The full size of each tend to be small trees and might be bigger than you want. Though certainly not as big as the photinias.

The wax myrtles do like some water but if the neighbor irrigates it they should do fine.

Maybe consider a mix of them and maybe even mix the sizes?

Wax myrtle froze back at the tips a little in this winter but they are evergreen here for me and I'm north of DFW.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 3:17PM
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PS Wax myrtles will attract the Yellow Rumped Warblers "Butter Butts" for the winter. That alone makes them worth having the BB's are very fun to watch!

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 3:18PM
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bostedo(8a tx-bp-dfw)

Not a lot of evergreen shrub candidates native to the northern blackland prairie ecoregion - though we're good if wanting grasses, flowers, or riparian trees. Semi-evergreen autumn sage is native, but tops out around only 3 ft. So, any taller "native" alternatives to nandina or photinia would have to be borrowed from the more acidic regions to our east (wax myrtle, Virginia sweetspire,..) or those more alkaline to our west (agerita, yaupon holly,..).

Agree wax myrtle seems about the best match of the near-by natives. But here are a few others that may be worth considering:

'Henry's garnet' Virgina sweetspire (Itea virginica) has a seasonally good color match to nandina, can be semi-evergreen around Dallas, and reaches a height of about 6 ft. Though the cold weather and wind this year eventually knocked about 70% of the leaves off our 'Little Henry', so would likely be times when it would too thin as a privacy screen.

Argarita (mahonia trifoliolata) is another possibility, though has prickly leaves and a rough open form in the wild. Only recall seeing one in cultivation that was big and bushy enough to serve as a screen. Maybe others know more on how this grows under care in north Texas?

We started the slow growing Texas mountain laurel (Sophora secundiflora) as an eventual (decade+ from now) replacement for a section of nandina screen. Seen these left in shrub form as hedge in SA, so could potentially serve as an alternative to a photinia hedge where there is enough space. Considered marginal this far north, but was unsheltered and undamaged during our recent 3-day deep freeze.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 7:01PM
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I agree that wax myrtle would be good.

Also: Cherry Laurel. The leaves are more like Red-tips.

And Nandina is horribly invasive, and ugly to boot. Bare mulch would be better. If you like the berries, try American Beautyberry.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2014 at 5:53PM
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