Pruning Photinia

Asked October 14, 2014, 6:04 PM EDT

Hi ~ I wrote to you this Spring about how I've been fighting leaf spot and a fungus on my photinia for almost three years now, and it looked like (3) of them were dead. You agreed that I had been treating them appropriately and suggested that I think about cutting them back to about three feet. Shortly after that, new growth appeared (mostly on top) of the plants I thought had died, and the new growth on the others weren't showing black spot or leaf curl. They apparently have a strong will to live!! I know I'm not out of the woods yet and would like to do some serious pruning. They are really "leggy" in the middle - long, long branches with just a few leaves at the end. I've read about both restoration and rejuvenation of photinia. Would you recommend either of these options and if so, when should it be done? I live in rural Grants Pass out on Riverbanks Road - a fairly different climate from town. Thanks for your help. Jane Cavallini-Daudet

Josephine County Oregon

4 Responses

Photinia rejuvenation is pretty easy and rarely results in the plant dying. As you've noted, Photinia are pretty vigorous plants.

. The easiest method of photinia rejuvenation is to cut back the entire shrub at one time. Photinia tolerates cutting back to about six inches above the ground. The problem with this type of pruning is that it leaves a gap and ugly stump in the landscape. You can try hiding it with tall annuals, but if it bothers you, there is another method that isn’t as extreme.

The second way to rejuvenate red tip photinia takes three or four years, but the shrub continues to fill its place in the landscape as it regrows. Each year, cut out one-half to one-third of the stems to about six inches above the ground. Begin with the oldest and largest stems and then cut the weak and misshapen ones. After three or four years, the shrub will be completely rejuvenated. You can continue this method of pruning after the shrub is completely rejuvenated to keep it looking fresh.

Regardless of the approach you choose, I'd suggest doing the pruning in late winter or very early spring.

Bob R. ~

Thanks for your response and detailed instructions. I really appreciate it!

Quick question regarding the first (and most dramatic) method: If I completely cut them all backat once, roughly how long would it take to come back?


You have a mature and vigorous root system so it will come back rather quickly. I would guess that the new canes will grow 4-5 feet in the first year.

That's pretty impressive! Thanks again for your help