Photinia (Photinia spp.) is one of those tough-as-nails plants that has a lovely, understated beauty and could be more frequently used as a hedge. Growing in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 6 through 9, photinia is a large, evergreen shrub that is best suited for tall hedges, rather than as foundation plantings against a house. Photinia establishes quickly, tolerates almost any soil conditions, and works extremely well as a privacy screen.
1 Select an appropriate site for your photinia hedge. Photonia tolerates a little shade, but is healthiest in full sun. Avoid places where standing water collects after a rain. Use photinia where you would like to block a view -- photinia is difficult to maintain below 5 feet in height.
2 Measure the length of the area where you need the hedge. Photinia plants should be spaced every 4 feet to fill in quickly and provide the screening you need. Divide the length of the area in feet by 4, and add 1, to determine how many plants to purchase.
3 Set your plants out in a line with 4 feet of space between their trunks. Stand back and make sure you are pleased with the appearance. If necessary, rotate individual plants to orient the most attractive side of the plant toward the area from where it will be most often seen.
4 Dig the planting holes twice as wide and the same depth as the root ball, so that the tops of the roots of each plant will be even with the level of the surrounding soil. Gently loosen the roots of each photinia before you plant it, so they aren't stuck in the shape of the pot. Mix a couple shovels of compost into the soil as you re-fill the planting holes.
5 Spread three or four more shovelfuls of compost around the base of each plant, then cover the entire hedge area with 2 to 3 inches of mulch. The mulched area should extend 2 or 3 feet from the trunks of the shrubs on both sides of the hedge. Water deeply after planting.
6 Water your hedge weekly whenever a soaking rain doesn't occur during the week. Continue this schedule for the first year after planting. Fertilize once per month with a balanced tree and shrub fertilizer such as 10-10-10. Use one cup per plant for every 3 feet in height. Spread the fertilizer evenly over the root zone, and wash it into the soil with a thorough soaking.
7 Cut the photinia back lightly each fall until it reaches the height you desire. Keep in mind that you'll need a ladder once the hedge is above 5 or 6 feet tall. After it reaches the height you want, cut it back to the same point each fall, or more frequently if you want a formal-looking hedge. But one of the most attractive features of photinia is the red new growth. Allowing photinia to grow for a while between trimmings accentuates the coloration.
Items you will need
- Measuring tape
- Garden gloves
- Hand pruners
- Hedge trimmer
- Step ladder
- Start with photinias in 5-gallon pots or larger to get a head start on a full-size hedge. A 5-gallon pot typically contains a photinia that is 2 to 3 feet tall. A photinia in a 15-gallon pot is likely to be 4 to 6 feet tall when you plant it. Under ideal conditions, your hedge will grow 2 to 3 feet each year, so even if you start small, you should have an effective screen in a short time.
- Consider a planting in front of the photinia to add depth and contrast to your hedge. Photinia is a perfect backdrop for a bed of flowering perennials, for example.
- Exercise caution when using a step ladder on uneven terrain. Have a helper stabilize the ladder from below.
- Always wear gloves when handling soil or compost to avoid contact with any pathogens that may be present.
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