When can I prune a photinia?

GardnMemaw04(z7b NE Tx)January 29, 2006

I have a red-tipped photinia that is getting to tall for the space. Can someone tell me when would be the best time of the year to cut it back by about 1/6th which would be a foot of height? Thanks, Pat

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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Go ahead. Has several flushes of growth per year.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2006 at 12:19AM
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GardnMemaw04(z7b NE Tx)

OK thank you.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2006 at 6:35AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

I disagree that this is a good time. In your climate, you should wait until spring is securely in your area. Actually, I would think that this is an inappropriate time in any temperate climate! The existing foliage provides a freeze and frost buffer for your plant. And if you are experiencing a warm winter like so many of us are, pruning could actually force a flush of growth when you least want it.....NOW! Red Tips don't have several flushes of growth unless encouraged to do so, and then will readily oblige. This would not be a good thing in February (in your area).

Pruning is, in fact, a growth PRODUCING act. If you cut your plant back, you may actually see an increase in growth, making it even more ungainly. Truthfully, one of the best and most successful methods of getting an over grown shrub back into control is by doing a proper 'renovation or rejuvenation' pruning. Though seemingly drastic, it almost always results in something FAR more desirable than hacking a shrub back to the size you think you want. You can then train and properly maintain that new growth into something attractive for many years to come.

Red Tips are excellent candidates for rejuvenation pruning, by the way. You can expect to see 3 to 4 feet of beautiful new growth the very first year. The secret is in cutting the plants all the way back to the ground....6 inch stumps at the most. This should be done cleanly and evenly in the spring. Do NOT fertilize that year.

Here is a link that might be useful: Just a bit of information about pruning

    Bookmark   January 30, 2006 at 9:31AM
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Hmmm......I disagree with pretty much all of the above advice. Actually, late winter is the optimum time to prune broadleaf evergreens, before new growth starts. Early February might be pushing it a tad, but later in the month should be just about ideal. For broadleaf evergreens fully hardy to the area, there is minimal concern for frost or freeze damage - you are removing more tender new growth and revealing older, tougher stems that are most able to withstand an unseasonal cold spell, should one occur.

I also disagree that photinias take well to radical pruning. This produces unnecessary stress on the plant which can result in increased susceptability to diseases or insect problems. And in Texas, photinia leaf spot can be a real and serious problem. Careful pruning to reduce size does not necessarily translate to hacking back.

FWIW, late winter is about the best time for most pruning jobs, other than those flowering shrubs whose bloom time directs pruning to encourage flowering.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2006 at 10:31AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

I cut one down that I decided I wanted to start over last fall. It has already been making new growth for some weeks now. While I certainly did not think this the best approach, I fully expect it will recover adequately. Turning now to a couple books I find

Brown (Kirkham), PRUNING OF TREES, SHRUBS & CONIFERS says spring for shortening shoots that grow out of the general shape, late spring-early summer for clipping photinia hedges.

Brickell & Joyce, PRUNING & TRAINING has similar timing recommendations, plus, among other comments "Clip hedges two or three times a year. To renovate, cut hard back into the old wood. Response is usually good."

    Bookmark   January 30, 2006 at 2:59PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Don't you think that February is a little bit early to be considered late winter in that zone in Texas? Naturally, I am translating it to the areas in which I've lived, where March or even April would be a more appropriate time frame to avoid a too-early-in-the-season flush of new growth. The important thing is to time the pruning with the advent of spring growth. If our original poster is going to take several inches off the top of his plant (which is what I interpreted the plan to be), I believe that he should wait until spring is right around the corner where he lives.

I'll stand by my suggestion of rejuvenation pruning. Stressful? Yes. Successful? Yes. It can even be used to bring back severely diseased photina, something I've done many times back in SC, where entomosporium is rampant. It really can give a ravaged or a much overgrown plant a second chance at a long and useful (and beautiful) life!

    Bookmark   January 30, 2006 at 3:26PM
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