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Are photinias really that bad here in the Commonwealth?

Posted by yankee_in_va z7 VA (My Page) on
Fri, Apr 21, 06 at 8:45

I read a lot about how problem-plagued fraser photinia can be. That said, they are absolutely all over my neighborhood and just about all of them seem to be doing great. A few houses down they have a row of them that provide an excellent screen. The Mrs. and I drove around last night looking for ideas for screening and red tips are all over the place. Costco currently has some for a pretty good price and I am interested, but hesitant based on what I have read. I like the look of them a lot, but maybe I should believe what I read. I am thinking about alternating them with another evergreen to provide about a 50-foot screen.

Speak from experience fellow Virginians, are these things really that problematic with fungus and disease here in the Commonwealth?

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Are photinias really that bad here in the Commonwealth?

Same story in Atlanta. Sometimes you'll see a spectacular 20 or 30 foot umbrella-crowned evergreen tree, and you get up close and it's a redtip (fraser) photinia. They seem to do better when planted as specimens. Problems are more likely when they're grown in hedges, and they're trimmed, the combination of which seems to promote promote a fungus which renders they UGLY. Sorry I'm not a Virginian but i used to be and Atlanta's climate approximates yours.

RE: Are photinias really that bad here in the Commonwealth?

Photinias were planted extensively in my part of Virginia Beach, which was built about 20 tears ago, mostly, as the gardener in Atlanta described, as hedges. Many homeowners in the subdivision I live in used them as natural fences, surrounding their entire property. They were also planted on the city right of way as barrier between the main road and all the homes that back up to it. They started to develop a fungus about 7 years ago, for which there is really no practical cure. My neighbors have spent thousands of dollars removing the dead/diseased plants . Most of the plants that were planted as the barrier are dead also, but removing a couple hundred 30 foot shrubs and replanting is a huge cost problem. After 2 years of negotiating the civic association was able to contract with the sheriff's office for jail work crews to cut the shrubs to the ground. Now we are left with the stumps to be dug out and some kind of replanting to be done; Probably $15,000 or more. Since only about 10 % of the homes back up to the main road; most homeowners are not willing to contribute. I'm not sure what will happen next.
Probably the most frequently asked question in the local gardening column is "What do I do with my diseased photinias?" Answer is tear them out and replant. (evergreen laurels and viburnums often suggested] I know they no longer sell Photinias in my local garden center.

RE: Are photinias really that bad here in the Commonwealth?

Thanks for the replies. We decided against these, I'm glad I resisted the temptation. We bought two Mary Nell Hollies and two Euonymus yesterday. Probably going to pick up an eleagnus or two soon too. Thanks again for the replies.

RE: Are photinias really that bad here in the Commonwealth?

I think the problem must be much more severe farther south, as I've been noticing lots of thriving, large photinias here in Fairfax County. Perhaps we get just enough cold to control the fungus (or perhaps the fungus just hasn't got here yet?). Anyway, message noted - if I grow Rutaceae, it will probably be rue or my indoor citrus.

RE: Are photinias really that bad here in the Commonwealth?

I thought i was so smart, driving around Richmond to see what looked healthy, when i needed to plant a hedge. What i didn't know was that if you buy Fraser Photinia from the big box stores, not a real nursery, these stores get them from growers who propagate them from last year's cuttings, year after year, so the fungus gets propagated right along with it. It's in the rose family, so it's likely to get fungus. To avoid that, growers should propagate from disease resistant plants every year, but that costs them work and money, and they are too cheap. I bought from Lowe's or somewhere similar and I lost at least 5 years suffering over these hedges til I ripped them out and started over with wax-leaf Ligustrum,(Privet) which is doing fine. The old Photinias you see around are much more resistant to fungus. It's always smart if you are planting something big you have to live with a long time to go to a nursery - they do it right. Costs more, but you get the good stuff. Wish I had known!

RE: Are photinias really that bad here in the Commonwealth?

We just took out a row of huge red tips at my MIL's house that were just awful. They had become way overgrown and so diseased they looked like the "after" photo from some biological attack. But she has a couple of others at some distance from this row that are just beautiful. Almost no spots and they are in rampant full bloom right now. Different cultivars? Difference in sun/shade/air circulation? When my FIL bought them (probably 25 years ago) he didn't care about cultivars, just got what was cheap.

As an experiment, I plan to root some cuttings from the remaining plants this summer and see how they do in my own yard. I think they're lovely additions to the landscape when healthy.

One rule of thumb, cheaper is frequently not the way to go. If you are good at looking for signs of plant health/disease, then you can get some good bargains. But if not, then a full service nursery that has a good reputation is always the best place to buy "green." Big box stores mostly don't know or care about the continued health of the plants they sell. Even those who offer warranties figure that few people will actually take advantage of it.

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