Do Photinias Need Ericaceous Compost?

Do Photinias Need Ericaceous Compost

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Photinias are a common but popular evergreen shrub that grows well in a diverse range of climates and soil conditions. They are native to Asia, the Himalayas, Japan, India, and Thailand but are now grown worldwide. Do Photinias need ericaceous compost, or do they prefer a more neutral to an alkaline growing medium?

Photinias can be fed with ericaceous compost, but they do not require the acidic conditions produced by this compost. Most photinia species will grow well in acidic and alkaline conditions but prefer a pH range of 6.0 to 7.5, which is from slightly acidic to slightly alkaline. 

The ease with which photinias grow has seen their popularity blossom across the world. These plants are not very fussy about their growing medium of pH levels. So, what are the optimum growing conditions for photinia, and can they tolerate ericaceous compost? 

Do Photinias Prefer Acidic Soil?

Photinias are a very forgiving plant that is easy to grow because of its tolerance for a wide range of conditions.

They are evergreen shrubs that are grown for their ornamental leaves and small white flowers that grow the year after a non-pruning year.

Most gardeners prune photinia to keep the shrub to the desired size and to prevent them from flowering because the flowers do not have a pleasant aroma.

The shrubs can attain fairly a fairly large size if left unpruned, growing to a height of 13 feet or 4m and reaching a spread of a similar width.

Most gardeners prune these plants to keep the size more manageable and enjoy the ornamental leaves that remain on the plant all year. 

The most popular version is the Red Robin, Photinia x fraseri, which has red tips on the young leaves, which brings an interesting color contrast to the plant and the garden.

What growing environment does photinia need, and do they require ericaceous compost?

What Is The Optimal pH Range For Growing Photinias?

Photinias have a high pH tolerance range, even though the optimal pH range for these plants is between 6.0 and 7.5.

Most photinia species grow equally well in slightly alkaline or slightly acidic soil conditions. This means that photinias, like skimmia plants, do not need ericaceous compost, but they can coexist in the same flower bed as other plants that do require this compost to create a more acidic growing environment.

Photinia will grow equally well alongside plants that require slightly alkaline soil. It is this versatility of the plant that makes it a constant favorite in many gardens around the world.

The only photinias that cannot tolerate alkaline soils at all are Photinia beauverdiana and Photinia villosa, which require neutral to acidic soil to grow well.

What Is The Best Compost For Growing Photinias?

Photinias are hardy plants that can use nutrients from either standard compost or ericaceous compost.

The best strategy to give them compost is to feed them whatever the surrounding plants use. You do not need to feed them specialized compost.

If your soil is fairly good quality, the plants do not require any additional feeding, but when the plant is first replanted in your garden, it does well with a sprinkling of blood and bone compost in the hole where it is planted.

Check out: Can You Compost Chicken Bones?

What Is The Best Soil For Growing Photinias?

Photinias prefer well-drained soil to prevent their roots from becoming too soggy. They are susceptible to several diseases, including root rot, which is quickly brought on by waterlogged roots.

A spot that gives the shrub plenty of airflow will help to keep the beautiful leaves disease free and healthy. Pruning is another method of providing enough airflow around and through the plant to keep disease at bay.

Clay soils are the most difficult conditions for getting photinia to grow. If you have a clay-rich soul, you should treat the soil with a generous 50% compost mixed into the soil where the photinia will be planted. Give the soil a week or two to settle down before planting the photinia.

Other Growing Conditions For Photinia

Photinia grows well in USDA zones 6 through 9, but they require some special overwintering care in zones 6 and 7, where the winter can be cold.

The ideal temperature range for photinia is between 61°F and 79°f or 16°C and 26°. It can tolerate temperatures that drop as low as 10°For -12°C if the roots are protected with a thick layer of mulch and the plant is well established.

The root system of photinias is relatively shallow, so they must be protected from the cold in winter with a 3 to 4-inch layer of mulch.

Younger, less established plants should be wrapped with burlap sacking to overwinter them in cold climates.

Photinia shrubs do not do well when exposed to strong winds. They need good airflow but must be protected from constant strong winds, especially in areas with cold winters.

Sunlight Requirements For Photinia

Most photinias are tolerant across a wide range of sunlight exposure, from full sun to partial shade. The Red Robin variety does well in permanent partial shade, another reason this plant is popular in many gardens.

In warmer zones, it is preferential to position your photinia in partial shade for the best growing results, especially if the afternoon sun is harsh.

Water Requirements For Photinia

Photinias do not like a lot of water and have good drought tolerance. It is only necessary to water them once a week, directly at the base of the plant. It is not necessary to water the plant if it has rained in the week.

Do not water the leaves of your photinia plant; they are susceptible to developing various leaf diseases if they remain damp.

If you water your garden with sprinklers, ensure the sprinkler does not wet the leaves during the watering cycle. 

Should You Prune Your Photinia?

Red Robin photinia should not be pruned until the plant is a minimum of three years old. Thereafter, the plant can be pruned twice annually to keep it to a manageable size.

Pruning in the early spring will encourage new growth in the summer, producing the familiar and spectacular red new-growth leaves.

Final Thoughts

Photinias do not need ericaceous compost, although this compost will not do them any harm. Most photinia grows well in slightly acidic as well as slightly alkaline growing environments.

They do not require much feeding and prefer well-drained soil with good humus levels. Normal compost or ericaceous compost can be used as a top dressing at the beginning of the growing season. 


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