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Dallas Morning News - February 6, 2020

Photinia Death and Replacement


I've heard lots of questions about photinia problems – once again. Several gardeners have chimed in reporting using Bordeaux mix and other copper products, Banner, potassium bicarbonate and other products, with no good results. There are also the usual questions on what to replant as replacements after photinia turn yellow, then brown and die.


Sorry, but no single product will solve the red tip problems. Banner is the toxic chemical that is often used to treat oak wilt in live oaks and red oaks. For that use it's called Alamo and costs a whole lot more. It's also sold under many other brand names. It doesn't work well for the oak disease and won't help your photinia. Neither will any pesticide spray.


Red tip photinia with early symptoms of Entomosporium disease

Final stage of Entomosporium disease



Bordeaux mix, mostly copper and lime, is considered an organic fungicide for some strange reason, but I don’t recommend it or any other copper products especially copper sulfate. Ending up with too much copper in the soil can be a serious problem even though traces of it are important for soil and plant health. There are small amounts of copper in many of the organic fertilizers and amendments we recommend.


Potassium bicarbonate and sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) are acceptable for treating minor disease problems but again need to be part of the overall procedure when treating tough diseases like Entomosporium on Photinia fraseri. Dry cornmeal or cornmeal tea will help with diseases but needs to be part of the entire Sick Tree Treatment that I have developed.


The entire procedure works by bringing the soil in the root zone back to a healthy condition. Red tip photinia is a weak plant that has built-in problems, so the Sick Tree Treatment needs to be applied in it's entirely and thoroughly. If the roots aren't already damaged too far, this procedure will save your plants.


Chinese photinia showing red new growth

Chinese photinia in bloom


The secret is healthy soil. The procedure starts by removing the soil and mulch from bases of plants. Doing this root flare exposure in a dramatic fashion is the most important step of the Sick Tree Treatment. Next, physically aerate the root zone soil or drench the area with hydrogen peroxide mixed 50/50 with water and then broadcast-apply the same amendments we use for bed preparation – compost, rock minerals and microbe stimulators such as whole ground cornmeal.


For new screen planting or replacements for dead photinia, the solution may be to plant a different kind of photinia or some other plant. Red tip photinias were bred from one of the better choices. Chinese photinia (Photinia serrulata) is a good-looking, tough, trouble-free evergreen with pretty new growth in spring followed by dramatic white flowers. Unfortunately, this large-growing shrub is not as easy to find in the nurseries.


For photinias that don' t make it, replace them with abelias, hollies, viburnums, cherry laurels, native cedars and other evergreens to form a mixed-species barrier. Then when a plant dies and has to be replaced, there won't be a snaggletooth look.





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