Escallonia – A Winter Surprise

Everyone knows that Escallonia gets badly frostbitten. Every book says that Escallonia is a tender hedge plant. Every list of plants that “only grow in the south-west” (it used to be “in the Scillies”) contains Escallonia. Every article says it should only be used as coastal hedging. I even read a piece in a reputable gardening magazine that suggested you cover your escallonia with horticultural fleece. So you would think that the recent freeze would have made your escallonia red raw with cold.

I’m going to argue with the books on this.  We are in Somerset, it’s true. All the same:
The temperature dropped to -11C this winter and there was plenty of windchill for long periods.
A 2.5 metre escallonia hedge near us, used as a windbreak, showed a little bit bronzing of a few leaves but apart from that it looked great.
We are on fairly heavy soil, but we are on a sloped valley and the drainage is good.

By way of supporting evidence, the smaller escallonia hedge plants here on the nursery (which is 300 feet higher above sea level than home) are looking fantastic. Not a brown leaf amongst them.
These plants are being pot grown outdoors, so they have perfect drainage year round.

So we say that Escallonia is pretty hardy, it’s more the damp that it hates.

Watch your garden grow and enjoy.

By Ashridge Support

Ashridge Nurseries has been in the business of delivering plants since 1949.


  1. Jane McFee says:

    Here here – we have lived in Cornwall for 15 years and the freeze this new year was the worst we have had – we recorded -9C. Just wanted to say that our escallonia looks as good as it ever did at this time of year.


  2. Elaine says:

    I have a tall overgrown Escallonia hedge which is full of dead wood in the centre and sparse down the bottom. I would like to cut this right back to almost ground level to enable it to start again. Can you advise me if it is ok to do this and when is the best time of year. Also what to do after this hard prune to make sure I have a consistant thick hedge all the way up. I would appreciate your advisw. Thank you.


  3. julian says:

    Thank you for your query

    I would be a bit nervous about cutting back established escallonia hedge plants too severely – they ought to survive but larger plants can suffer from shock if treatment is too rough.

    Instead try an interimiate step – in Spring, prune your escallonia hedging back to a framework of branches. You can still be harsh – the hedge may well be leafless when you have finished, but this ought to encourage plenty of new, bushy growth within a few weeks. If that does not solve the problem, you can then consider even more savage pruning knowing that you have little to lose if the plants die.

    Hopefully this answers your question, but please let me know if I can help any further.

  4. Deidre says:

    Unfortunately for the past two years I was unable to trim the top of my escallonia hedge. Its about 30years old and now stands at about 6feet, 2 foot higher than previously. It looks like its dying. Is there anything I can do to help it survive the winter? Any advice would be greatly appreciated. My neighbours are elderly and I would like to avoid having to remove and replace it if possible.


    1. Edward says:

      Hi Deidre,

      It’s hard to diagnose a plant from a distance – there could be so many things. For example, it could be totally innocent: maybe the hedge has put on a growth spurt that was damaged by frost, which is a purely cosmetic issue. On the other end of the scale, it might have a root rot fungus that is indeed killing it – I just can’t say.

      I suggest you trim it now & remove all weeds & grass around it.
      Give it a nitrogen rich liquid feed in spring, followed by a good mulch of well rotted manure & compost (remember not to pile the mulch up around the stems of the plants).

      If it looks worse next year, it would make sense to ask a professional to come and have a look at it. Sorry I can’t be more help.

      Good Luck,

  5. sarah says:

    Hi, I planted escallonia iveyi in september and looks very poorly after all the cold weather and there are no new shoots appearing, is it terminal or can i bring it back to life? Many thanks and i look forward to hearing from you.

    1. Edward says:

      Hi Sarah,

      All you can do is leave it for now and hope for the best. Give it a nitrogen rich feed soon to assist leaf growth if you do see any shoots, otherwise its curtains. Sorry.

  6. tracy says:

    Hi. I have an escallonia hedge which I keep trimmed to about 4ft high and has been planted for about 6 years. Th severe winter this year has left it with no leaves and jus bare branches. The tips of some of the branches are showing new leaf growth but not the rest. As the hedge is about 40 metres long I dont want to have to replace it. Do you have any advice on what I could do to improve its chances of survival? Thanks

    1. Edward says:

      Hi Tracy,

      Wait and see. Snip the ends off a few dead looking stems to see if they are really dead and brown inside, or if there is healthy green.

      Whereabouts are you? Is your site exposed to wind?

  7. tracy says:

    Hi. The ends of some of the smaller branches are white inside. I am in Northern Ireland and the hedge is quite exposed to the wind. Thanks

    1. Edward says:

      Hi Tracy,
      I’m sorry to say that Escallonia is prone to dying back a bit in very sharp winters like the one we’ve just had.
      This is made worse by exposure to strong, cold winds that dry the leaves out.
      When planted further North, a sunny, sheltered spot in the middle of a town is best and the micro-climate a few metres from a warm house is ideal.

      The other thing to consider is your soil type: is it freely draining and quite dry, or is it sticky clay and moist?
      Escallonia will die from the stress of both cold wind and wet roots.
      If that is the case, I’m afraid it’s probably time for a different hedge.

  8. angela says:

    Our Escallonia hedge sufferered badly after 2010 bad winter. I am still trying to repair it today. Just wanted to know if I should give up. It used to be at least 5ft in height every spring, Last year it hardly grew and was sparse like at the bottom (and like someone else on here, we had awful wooden branches.) I persevered and now ccan cut out some of the branches due to some new growth. It still seems to be half the density it was though. We also seem to have a space for some reason. Will we ever be able to cut out the branches completely they look an eyesore. I don’t know much about feeding a hedge but I gave it a helping of chicken pellets today and added some topsoil/manure.

    1. julian says:

      Sorry you are having a problem. Sounds like you are doing all the right things with your escallonia hedge though. One thing that may help is that you can cut escallonia hedging back VERY hard. The more you do that, the bushier it gets. To give you an idea, if we have unsold 100cm plants at the end of summer, we pot them up and cut them back to 10-15cms in height. Right into old wood. They regrow very thickly and turn into 125-150 cm plants the next year.

      So before you give up, cut the thinnest bits back the hardest – you have nothing to lose, and I would be surprised if your escallonia plants did not recover. It is not too late to do it now, but do not leave it long.

      Good luck

  9. Anonymous says:

    my escallonia hedge is very spindly and losing its leaves and looks generally bad

    1. Julian says:

      If you would like to send pictures of your escallonia hedge using Contact Us and confirm you are happy to go on to our mailing list, we would be very happy to provide you with the best (free) advice we can.

  10. John Martini says:

    The winters of 09/10 finished of our Escallonia hedge. Sitting in heavy snow and frost for prolonged period finished it off. Had to bite the bullet in spring and remove the whole hedge. Replaced it with a super hardy hedge called Steeple Bush. A very fast growing hedge with a purple flower. I suppose the only minus is it is deciduous, but looks lovely all spring summer and early autumn. No more fretting about tender Escallonia hedging. I live in Northern Ireland, so perhaps too far north for Escallonia.

  11. John Martini says:

    The winters of 09/10 finished of our Escallonia hedge. Sitting in heavy snow and frost for prolonged period finished it off. Had to bite the bullet in spring and remove the whole hedge. Replaced it with a super hardy hedge called Steeple Bush. A very fast growing hedge with a purple flower. I suppose the only minus is it is deciduous, but looks lovely all spring summer and early autumn. No more fretting about tender Escallonia hedging. I live in Northern Ireland, so perhaps too far north for Escallonia.John.

  12. Adrienne says:

    I totally agree with you as regards Escallonia hedges being very hardy. We live in Christchurch, New Zealand and get very heavy frosts in Winter. The leaves of our 3 mtrs hedge have never browned, to my knowledge, and it is very healthy. It does need cutting back and I have been told to take three years over this. The first year cut back the top, the second year one side and the last year the other side, all just after flowering. Would you agree with this?

    1. Ashridge Support says:

      Thank you for your question about cutting escallonia back. You are absolutely correct and the technique you outline should also be used on any other hedge that is both too large and also capable of regrowing from old wood. So beech, hornbeam, yew, privet, box, hawthorn etc would all be happy with the same treatment. Only taking a third off in each of three years means you can prune each part of the hedge very hard indeed. At the same time by leaving the other two thirds alone, you do not place the plants under undue stress.

      Good luck (and be brave)


  13. MALCOLM says:

    I have an escallonia tree which we inherited when we moved here 3 years ago we are about 2 miles back from the sea on slightly higher ground . This tree is almost finishing flowering and wonder when the best time to cut it back and how far can I cut it back it is about 12ft high and has a spread of about 15ft. How do I go about it.

    1. Ashridge Support says:

      Best to do the deed in two stages – a year apart. In early spring, mulch the plant well. Then after the first flush of flowers, cut one half of it back as hard as you like. Do the same – mulch, flower, cut (the other half) the next year to the same timescale.

      Good luck

  14. Tammy Dewitt says:

    We had 7” of snow and temps around 10F for a week. I noticed our Escalonia have several branches that have brown leaves. Should I leave the alone or trim them back? Thank you,

    1. Ashridge Support says:

      Escallonia are not very hardy which is why they like growing near the sea. Assuming the cold weather has not killed them, then leave the branches alone until the weather is warmer and consistently above freezing and then cut them back to live wood. You can safely wait to do this until they come back into growth.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top