The Q&A Archives: Grown Photinia Out Of Control

Question: I planted about 18 photinia shrubs on my property to create a nice wall between me and my neighbor (don't worry, we like each other). This was about a year and a half ago and all the shrubs have grown from 1 foot to about 10 feet tall. My problem is that I have never trimmed them and they look out of control. I found out recently by looking on your site that the trimming should have started earlier in order to get the density of leaves and branches I wanted to create a wall of shrubs. Is it too late to start the trimming process? Or will these shrubs forever have gaps? I'm obviously hoping that I don't have to start over.

Thanks for your help.

Answer: You shouldn't have to start all over, but you may be in for a few seasons of corrective training and pruning. It's a natural habit for photinia to grow straight up, and pruning the tips of the branches will encourage bushy growth. The beauty in photinia is contained in the red leaves they produce in the spring. Only the new leaves are red, so you'll want to encourage lots of new leaves each spring. Do this by pruning the plants back a little bit, all over, each year.

To rehabilitate your plants, begin by pruning in the spring just before new growth begins. You can safely cut back one-third of the live material at any one time. So, cut back in the spring, then wait until the following spring to prune some more. Eventually you'll have the bushy shrubs you desire, plus all the lovely red leaves these plants can produce. Annual trimming will renew the plants, encourage bushy growth, and provide an attractive hedge both you and your neighbor can enjoy.

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