How to Prune a Photinia Red Robin

By Mary Smith. Updated: March 10, 2022
How to Prune a Photinia Red Robin

Sometimes known as 'Christmas berry', Photinias have been commonly seen as festive plants, particularly due to their illustrious mix of red and green. However, this association with a winter festival belies the fact it its natural habitat is warm parts of Asia. It has been cultivated in gardens all over the world and is a particularly beautiful border plant. However, as it comes from such warm climates, it needs a lot of sun to flourish. This is why pruning Photinia red robin is such an important part of their care. oneHOWTO shows you how to prune a Photinia red robin so that it can have as much sun as possible, encourage potential blossoms and to make it look delightful.

You'll need:
  • Sharp pruning shears
  • Gardening gloves
You may also be interested in: How to Care for a Laurel Tree
Steps to follow:

Background on Photinia red robin

Photinia red robin has a reason for pruning which is quite particular. This is because when new leaves grow they turn to an incredible crimson red color. After the leaves grow and new shoots develop, these older leaves turn green. This gives it such an attractive and unique appearance, one which needs cultivated to make the most of it.

Photinia as a genus is also fairly hardy. Although it requires a lot of sun, it can grow in many different soil types. These are usually fine to be acid or alkaline, unlike other plant species. However, they are best grown in moist (not wet) conditions. Good drainage needs to be implemented, but if the ground is hard, you can often still grow this shrub with the addition of some healthy soil on top.

For a shrub, it can be relatively large, growing anywhere between 13 (4 m) and 50 feet (15 m). Some Photinia species has thorns, but red robin does not, making it even better for use in the garden, especially if you have children. It is evergreen which means it does not shed in the winter, thus providing another reason Photinia need to be pruned. Despite needing sun, it is also a hardy tree meaning it should survive winter well enough.

knowing when to prune your Photinia red robin is important, but we don't just mean time of year. The age of the shrub will have a bearing. Red robin is planted from shoots of another tree, so this time of its growth is very important. Planting Photinia should be done in autumn to spring, but you will need to know how bad your winter is where you are. If it gets very cold, you should plant closer to spring. This is because young plants are prone to succumbing to frost and can even be blown away in harsh winds.


General pruning Photinia

You need to prune your Photinia red robin sometime between early Spring to early autumn. Once the buds start developing, you will need to stop, otherwise you will make them vulnerable to frost. This makes late spring and early summer the ideal time of year to prune them. If you have just planted the Photinia then you should wait until you get some growth before you start pruning them.

If you prune them right after they are done blooming they will be setting buds for the next year. This is a great time to prune photinia red robin and can help you maintain height and width depending on how much you trim off the branch.

Photinia hedges are fast growing and if you want to have a beautiful Photinia then they must be pruned. The form of pruning really depends on how the shrub has been planted. Prune those branches and leaves that have turned into a goldish or brown color. This will help your Photinia grow new, healthier branches. Make sure you trim the photinia when it is not raining and use sharp tools for a clean cut. It won't only be easier for you to prune, it will cause as little damage as posible to the tree. Hacking away at the photinia with poor tools can weaken it.

How to Prune a Photinia Red Robin - Step 2


If your Phontina Red Robin is several years old and has grown tall and skinny, or if you have more than one together and they are uneven, many people cut short the highest branches in a an even line. This is known as topping and is used to keep a uniform shape which many people see as being more visually attractive.

Unfortunately, topping can have a detrimental effect on trees, according to Virginia State University[1]. This is because it can leave them more vulnerable, reduces their ability to make food for themselves and causes wounds to appear in the limbs. You can trim Photinia red robin for height, but it is much better to follow its natural shape and trim around this. This is known as drop-crotching. It keeps the natural shape of the tree, but makes it look neater.


Thinning is a type of tree pruning whereby the Photinia limbs are cut at the source. Photinia shouldn't be thinned in this way as it is usually too drastic for it to weather well. Only cut off the whole branch or shoot if it has died. Otherwise, trim the Photinia at about a third in length and never more than half the length of a branch.

If you want to completely renovate the Photinia red robin, then you will have to drastically cut it Suppose you just moved into a new house and in the yard there is a Photinia that is completely out of control. In the early Spring, you can cut it right back to 6 or 7 centimetres (2.5 or 2.75 inches) away from the ground. It will start to grow again to 30 centimetres (12 inches) that year and you can start to shape it the way you want. This is time consuming, but it will be the only way to have a healthy Photinia red robin tree which grows how you want it to.


Hard pruning for Photinia leaf spot

One of the reasons you should prune your Photinia is due to something called Photinia leaf spot. This is a fungus which grows on red robin and can cause severe leaf loss. You can recognize Photinia lead spot by the brown/purple spots which appear (you guessed it) on their leaves. It is not caused by other plants or pests, but a fungus which grows most often in the cooler parts of the year.

While almost imperceptible at the beginning, Photinia leaf spot will keep developing until it eventually kills the tree. This might not happen for a couple of years, but it will return again and again unless preventative measures are taken. Pruning leaves as soon as you see some of this spot is incredibly important. Follow the leaves which are infected and cut it from the branch. This may be disappointing after all those years of growth, but its better to have a healthy smaller tree which has potential to grow than a tall dying tree which doesn't.

Hard pruning means cutting it at the branch. This is necessary as the fungus might travel into the branch and affect other areas, but it will depend on how far the fungus has spread. Cut the branch at the diagonal so that water slips off and doesn't encourage more fungal growth. Once you have removed all affected parts of the Photinia, you will need to sweep away all the infected leaves and branches so that it doesn't return.

If your Photinia is too rife with fungus, all the the pruning in the world won't bring it back to health. This is why it is so important to catch leaf spot early and stop it from spreading. Hard pruning can also be used if you want your Photinia red robin to grow outwards instead of up. Cut the main stem of the Photinia if you want to achieve this effect, but no more than a third of its length.

If you want to read similar articles to How to Prune a Photinia Red Robin, we recommend you visit our Gardening & plants category.

  • Be patient when get your hedge to look the way you want. It takes time for even fastest growing plants.
  • Be sure to wait until all threats of frost have evaporated. Pruning before a frost can make the plant susceptible to disease and insect problems.

1. French, F. C., & Appleton, B. L. (2009). Stop Topping Trees. In H. Roads (Ed.), A Guide to Successful Pruning (pp. 430-458). Virginia Tech.

Write a comment

What did you think of this article?
tom smith
our Photinia is a Tree with a trunk bare up to about 6 ft then with a round lollypop shape that is getting too large and looking top heavy and need to reduce the top growth, how is the best way and time to do it? its now late june in the UK
Rita Robinson
Can my red robin preach trees be pruned after 21/2 years and what is the best feed for them
Mrs Carole Princei
I have a old Bush with alot of black spot can I cut it back now and how please
About early March this year I planted a hedge of about 24 v young bushes, about 30 cm. They have grown about 15-20 cm. I want them to grow to about a 150 cm tall, full Bush. Do I prune this first year?
Jim W
Hello, my 25 feet tall, Red Robin Photinia has several problems: no pruning for 15 years, planted too close together, spotted leaf fungus, and poison ivy vines running through the ground. They line my back yard as a tall hedge with poor soil conditions, but drains well. The ends, which acquire shade from inter-planted indigenous, weed trees, do better than the plants in the center, meaning that their leaves are full, and pretty along with flowering. The center plants’ leaves are sparse after falling following budding. I know I have to remove some of the plants because of the closeness, but can hard pruning be done to the rest of the plants? I would like to renovate the center plants. Is that advisable with 25’ plants? Thank you.
OneHowTo Editor
Hi Jim,

It sounds like it might be your only option for the good of the trees. However, it also sounds like it might be a professional job. No pruning on such a tall tree might be dangerous and, with the fungus, a tree surgeon might need to be brought in to treat it specifically. If you feel you're up to it and have the right equipment etc., go for it.
Terry jones
I have 9 3/4 Standard Photinia Red Robin. When I purchased them they were very well established trees.They were planted in the ground in anew border that I had created. This border was dug out to at least 3 feet and filled with a mixture of mulch and top soil. As you can imagine they have already put on9/12 inches of growth. I would now like to shape into balls.They are 9 feet tall with 3 feet of growth on the top. Please advise .Thanks Terry
OneHowTo Editor
Hi Terry,

Curves or spherical shapes in bushes like this are best done with motorized (either electric or petrol powered) hedge trimmers. The best way to do it is cut a little off from one section first. Regularly stand back so you can see the whole bush and then try a little more. You can always trim more off, but waiting for it to grow back will take time.
Jon handforth
Hello we have a Red Robin which is a tree some 15 feet tall with thick trunk and limbs with a canopy rather than a bushy form. We need trim well back. Can you advise us please as to best time of year and best method of pruning. Many Thanks
OneHowTo Editor
The best time to prune a photinia red robin is during the dry season. The best you can do is to trim those branches that are more densely formed, this will allow the other branches to get better circulation and avoid photinia leaf spot.

Hope this helps
How to Prune a Photinia Red Robin
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How to Prune a Photinia Red Robin

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