Prepared by Karen Russ, HGIC Information Specialist, and Bob Polomski, Extension Consumer Horticulturist, Clemson University. (New 4/00.)
Indian hawthorns (Rhaphiolepis species and hybrids) are low-growing evergreen flowering shrubs. With a dense mounded growth habit, they are ideal low-maintenance plants for use in small gardens and foundation plantings.
Most cultivars grow between 3 and 6 feet tall and about the same in width. A few are large shrubs that can be trained to a small tree form.
Indian hawthorns are grown for their attractively neat, mounded form and clusters of flowers. The fragrant, pink or white crabapple-like flowers open in clusters above the foliage in mid-April to May. Bluish-black berries appear in late summer and persist through the winter. The leathery, dark evergreen leaves are rounded, about 2 to 3 inches long, turning purplish in winter.
The compact cultivars of Indian hawthorn are suitable for use as foundation shrubs, while larger cultivars may be used for hedges, mass plantings or screening.
Indian hawthorns are sensitive to cold damage and should be sited in protected areas if grown in the upper part of South Carolina.
Plants prefer sun, although they will grow in partial shade. Indian hawthorn prefers moist, well-drained soil, but will tolerate drought. It is tolerant of salt spray and sandy soils and is a good choice for coastal areas.
Pruning is rarely necessary. If pruning is needed it should be done just after bloom.
Entomosporium leaf spot is the most common disease of Indian hawthorn. It is most damaging following periods of frequent rainfall in the spring and fall. The first symptoms are tiny, round, red spots on both the upper and lower sides of young leaves. These expand and on heavily diseased leaves, merge, forming large, irregular blotches. Severe infections may result in early leaf drop.
Slow the spread of disease by spacing plants to improve air movement. Water plants with drip irrigation rather than overhead sprinklers. Collect and discard fallen diseased leaves.
The best way to prevent leaf spot on Indian hawthorn is to plant selected resistant cultivars (see below).
These cultivars are highly susceptible to leaf spot:
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