Photinia Leaf Spot – Don’t Panic!

Photinia Red Robin makes a really photogenic hedge plant, with blazing red young leaves that can be persuaded to reappear all summer with regular trimming and simple but lovely white flowers.

However, just as the most handsome face can be marred by acne, the prettiest Photinia bush can can be disfigured by an unpleasant looking dose of Leaf Spot. It really is an ugly thing to happen to such great foliage and if it comes your way, you may be quite alarmed.

Our advice is to be calm. The first thing to consider is this: Photinia Red Robin loves sun and well drained soil, it also is not a big fan of very humid or very cold weather. If your plants are in a dark, damp place and suffer a harsh winter followed by a muggy summer, their natural defenses will be strained and they will be more susceptible to disease.

Obviously, you can choose the right place to plant them but you can’t control the weather. If your plants are in a sunny, well drained spot and get leaf spot due to bad weather, you have nothing to worry about. If, on the other hand, they aren’t in a suitable location and get severe leaf spot on a regular basis, then you must be brave and replace them with a hardier plant.

There are two possible causes of the spots. One is fairly harmless and only ever occurs after manky weather. The other, called Entomosporium, also needs cold, wet weather to strike hard and is a bit more of a pain. It is very hard to tell them apart.

Fortunately, the treatment for both is the same – remove and burn affected leaves on sight and keep the bottom of the plant ruthlessly clean of fallen leaves – a single decaying leaf can be a springboard for enough spores to affect an entire hedgerow.

Even if you get a few spots coming back, don’t worry, it’s just nature doing its thing. If you have a plague of spots year after year, don’t waste your time on a loosing battle with chemicals and sprays – be graceful and rethink your planting scheme.

And remember – healthy plants tend to stay healthy. Overfeeding can be almost as bad as underfeeding: each year, apply a single dose of liquid feed around the base of your plants, according to the instructions of your product (early spring is usually the best time). If your area has dry soil, apply a bit of mulch around but not touching the stems of your plants in late spring and water your plants if there is a drought.

By Ashridge Support

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


  1. Joe says:

    I have a lot of black spot on the newly planted ‘Red Robin’ what can I spray it with?

  2. ted finch says:

    Most of the leaves on my photinia planted last year have leaf spot,its in a area that only gets sun in the morning what can i treat it with

    1. Edward says:

      Hi Ted,

      Last summer was a sucker for mildew and other fungus problems like leaf spot. You mention that your site is shady, is it also very sheltered, with a restricted air flow and/or lots of other plants crowded around the Photinia (these things will make the site more humid and encourage leaf spot)? Which part of the country are you in? What is the soil like, especially in terms of moisture & drainage?

      To kill the fungus, you’ll need a systemic fungicide that works from the inside of the plants. Once the issue has cleared up, you can switch to an organic, preventative, copper based fungicide like Bordeaux mixture. I haven’t used these for Photinia myself, I would advise using organic controls (i.e. cleaning up fallen leaves, pruning & changing the mulch a couple of times a year), but they should be effective.

      If your plants aren’t in a suitable location, i.e. sunny, with a good air flow and not too much soil moisture, then I would suggest replacing them with a more suitable plant, such as an ornamental holly (if you need some intersting leaf colour). If the plants aren’t happy, the leaf spot will just keep on coming and you’ll save yourself time and money in the long run.
      It’s early days and I haven’t seen your site & plants in person, so I don’t want to be too gloomy. If you use sprays for the next couple of years and aren’t happy with the results, whip the Photinia out and start again.

  3. sretko says:


    my problem with the red robin is there are holes in the leaves.when i dig the soil there are some
    worms.also not in the best spot where i put them.

    is there any product to fix this problem.

    1. julian says:

      Worms in the soil are good if they are worms and not slugs or caterpillars. If the holes in the leaves are mainly round and look as if they could have been the result of a being fired at with a shotgun then they are almost certainly fungal. As the weather dries and warms the new foliage will not have these. They are not pretty, but pretty harmless

  4. Mrs Baker says:

    I have my photina 3 years and always get bad black spot and leaf drop is there anything I can do or should I dig it up

    1. Thanks for your enquiry

      The best thing to do is to email a photo and your query to support(at)


  5. maggie says:

    My photinia obiously has leaf spot and appears to have provided the vine weevil with a meal. Will the dreaded weevil attack the roots or just the leaves? I’m always reluctant to spray or use chemicals but especially here as the two plants are alongside the lavendar hedges planted for the bees.

    1. Thanks for your enquiry

      The best thing to do is to email a photo and your query to support(at)


  6. Ann says:

    My young photinia has looked good till now, but this spring now looks spinly and thin, but more worrying is that the red leaves look burnt, the green leaves look fine, it is just the new red leaves which look like the ends, tips are burnt. Is this the leaf spot I have been reading about?

    1. Jack Glozier says:

      Hard to say for sure without seeing any pictures but it does sound like it could be. The RHS offer some good advice on this issue –

  7. Marie Ella Walker MISS says:

    Wonder the procedure price I.m a pensioner live in batteries london

  8. R joint says:

    I have found underneath the leaves of my red robin a soft white liquid, shaped like a small insect and there is one on the back of every leaf cab you help or know what it is ??????!

    1. Jack Glozier says:

      From the description you have provided it sounds like fire blight, you can read up about it here – 🙂

  9. D Tulloch says:

    I was given a Photinia Red Robin in August 2015 as a gift and planted it in the middle of the lawn, with nothing around it. The plant itself was healthy, lots of red leaves with new growth everywhere.
    Unfortunately during January/Febuary 2016, the lawn became water logged for 2 months due to issues with blocked road drains off the lane at the back of my property. Eventually that was sorted however since then the Red Robin has lost all it’s leaves and any new growth seems to turn black and crusty with days. It is still growing, the main stem is green beneath when scratched slightly and the branches are red towards the ends, also growing.
    I’m not a gardener, the plant was given to me by my father-in-law who suddenly passed away 4 months ago and I am keen to keep it for sentimental reasons.
    Is there anything I can do to save this? What pesticides can I use (brand names)


    1. Jack Glozier says:

      What you’ve described sounds like Photinia leaf spot (and heavy leaf loss) – which is a physiological problem (i.e. not caused by any pest or disease). Take a look at this article which has some very good advice on the topic.

  10. Linda case says:

    My red robin tree never grew any leaves last year and is looking very twiggy is it dying

    1. Mark Cadbury says:

      Could not be sure without photos.

  11. Tiffany Chilton says:

    My red robin was in a pot in sun/shade doing really well but last week I moved it into the ground in full sun. The soil is heavy clay but we added compost and watered in well. Since then it’s been around 36 degrees. It’s now got some wilted leaves and many have turned brown. Should I put it back in the pot where it was or can I do anything to keep it where it is now?

  12. Mary says:

    Can I use Rose spray for black spot on the standard Photinia
    Red Robin. Thankyou.

    1. Ashridge Support says:

      Unless the instructions for whichever rose spray you have exclude photinias, it should not hurt your plants. Whether it will cure photinia leaf spot is another matter – the fungus causing the problem is not the same. Effective chemicals for treating photinia leaf spot include chlorothalonil, propiconazole, and myclobutanil.

      You can try and cure the problem organically. If your plants are in containers report them in fresh compost with a long life slow release fertiliser unless you did that in the last 24 months. Now is a good time. Root prune at the same time if you want to use the same pots.

      Practice good hygene – rake up and burn/destroy (do NOT compost) diseased leaves. Do NOT trip or prune in spring or summer as you create wounds for the fungus to enter. Burn all winter prunings. Use a foliar feed maybe once a month to give the plants a boost. Move containers away from walls and out of corners so as to improve air flow.

      Good luck

      1. Caroline says:

        Good morning
        I have 3 pleached photinia robins that I bought last June on 6 ft trunks with 1.5 m sq frames. They all have black spot and have lost a lot of leaves. I wasn’t sure if this was stress or a virus? I’ve gathered up the ones on the floor and disposed as you suggest. I was going to spray them as well. As the tree is looking thin in the middle I was also considering pruning out the tops which have got a lot of fresh growth on them. But reading the above about not pruning spring/ summer do you think I should wait till autumn for this? I bought these trees to block an unattractive view and they weren’t cheap!!! Any thoughts very welcome!

        1. Ashridge Support says:

          Thanks for your mail. I do not think you got these from us as we do not sell pleached photinia. So you first port of call should be whoever you bought them from who should advise and replace if necessary. However a couple of thoughts. Are they in containers or in the ground. If they are in containers, take them out and see if rootball is crowded. If it is, they will need root-pruning and repotting which will invigorate them. Are they well watered? It has been incredibly dry and photinia, like many evergreens, drop their foliage when their roots are dry.

          Good luck

  13. Conrad says:

    I planted two large 1.70m photinia red Robbins (bought elsewhere) late October this year. They looked healthy. However now, two months later in December there are many leaves with black spot. Is this expected as wet, damp and cold winter weather hits London? What should I do please? Leave them or cut affected leaves now? Thank you so much.

    1. Ashridge Nurseries says:

      Hi Conrad,
      Assuming they are happy where you planted them in terms of light, drainage and air flow…
      I would leave them for now and trim them after the display of spring foliage, sweeping up the clippings. Hopefully next year they will be better established. If you feed them, give no extra nitrogen.

      But if they are bothering you, it’s not a problem to trim them now.

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