Question of the Week: April 11, 2019

“What is killing my redtip photinias? Can I replant more of them?”

This is a seemingly minor fungal leaf spot. It looks like it might be harmless, but it’s far from that. Meet Entomosporium.

Redtip photinias are spectacular shrubs as their new growth comes out in the spring. It’s no wonder everyone has loved them.

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However, back in the 1980s a fungal disease began to appear and it threatened their very existence. Now, here we are almost 40 years later and we still don’t have a good chemical control for it. It’s Entomosporium.

You can see the progression of Entomosporium as it takes its toll on this now-removed redtip photinia in McKinney.

The first thing you’ll see will be maroon-colored freckles dotting the leaves. They seem harmless enough that first year, but then you begin to notice the leaves losing their color and even puckering as the spots become much more common. The twigs and even branches die out and eventually entire plants are lost out of long rows.

Row of redtips starting to show effects of Entomosporium. Plants that have already died at right end have been replaced with more redtips – not the best plan, because they, too, will develop the disease.

The temptation when all of that happens is to replace those lost plants with more redtip photinias, but we’ve discovered that that would be folly. New plants soon develop the disease, too, and you’re right back where you started. And, as mentioned, there is no prevention or cure for this particularly troublesome pest.

Your best replacements for tall, screening shrubs would be Nellie R. Stevens hollies, Needlepoint hollies, Oakland hollies or waxleaf ligustrums.

Indian hawthorns in McKinney show serious outbreak of Entomosporium.

Note: Entomosporium has mutated and spread to a closely related shrub, Indian hawthorn – enough so that I no longer recommend them for Texas landscaping. The better choice, and the alternative for replacement when you need to, would be Carissa hollies. They have just about the same growth habit and texture and they’re immune to the disease.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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