Oct 03, 2015

The red tipped photinia has long been a popular plant in the metro Atlanta region. Also called Red Tips, photinias are large shrubs which grow particularly well in this area and have quickly become established as one of the most common and effective hedge plants in the South. With its striking red and green colors, the photinia can be a spectacular sight in gardens and yards, and it’s a familiar sight to us as we provide tree service Atlanta and throughout the metro area.

However, the red tipped photinia is vulnerable to attack from a fungus known as ‘photinia leaf spot’ which has destroyed many shrubs. It is most damaging to plants in cool, wet weather and when active growth is taking place. As a result, fungal spores usually develop during the winter and early spring before physically showing signs of appearance in the summer.  404-CUT-TREE offers reliable tree service Roswell.

Initially, small, round, red spots appear on the surface of the leaves, and because they are very similar in color to the leaves themselves they are difficult to identify. Then the spots grow in size and gradually turn dark purple. As the fungus takes hold, the leaves are covered; soon spores develop, and at that stage the disease is established. Intervention at this point is too late, unfortunately.

There is no real cure for photinia leaf spot. It’s all about understanding the cycle of the disease and acting accordingly to prevent it occurring. The spores typically exist among fallen and infected leaves and will lie there, dormant, throughout winter before being released into the air during the spring. They move from the bottom of the plant upwards.

A smart move is to rake up these fallen leaves. They may seem harmless, sitting there in flowerbeds and at the base of shrubs, but if infected with the fungus they will lead to the spread of the disease. Rake up piles of the leaves and dispose of them.

If any shrubs seem infected, treat them as you would treat a tree infected with a contagious disease: remove all the affected branches. You can seek advice from Atlanta tree removal or tree trimming experts, or you can carefully do it yourself, since these are ground-cover shrubs and not high, thick trees requiring heavy equipment to trim. Follow the same general guidelines as in tree pruning, making clean cuts as close to the base of the infected branches as possible without damaging the bark collar. You can consult our pruning guide for more tips on safe, healthy trimming. When you have finished, apply a fresh layer of new mulch around the shrubs to prevent spores from reaching upwards again and attacking the growth.

If you are planting new red tips in your garden, it’s wise to space out the plants so they are not within touching distance of each other – reducing the risk of cross-contamination and ensuring there is plenty of air movement around them. This allows leaves to dry quicker, denying the fungus the moist environment it loves.

Fungicides can help manage leaf spot. This treatment should commence in the spring and should be repeated at regular intervals from the middle to the end of June. For further advice and guidance on identifying photinia leaf spot, the preventative steps to take, and action if it is present in your plants, contact you Atlanta tree service 404-CUT-TREE and schedule a visit with a certified arborist.