Choose Indian hawthorn resistant to leaf spot

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Indian hawthorn (Rhaphiolepis) is popular in commercial and home landscapes.

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Entomosporium leaf spot on Indian hawthorn begins as small spots that grow into larger patches with grayish, white centers.   Sid Mullis/Special
Sid Mullis/Special
Entomosporium leaf spot on Indian hawthorn begins as small spots that grow into larger patches with grayish, white centers.

It has a neat, mounded form and cluster 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 winter. The leathery, dark evergreen leaves are rounded, about 2 to 3 inches long, turning purplish in winter.

Most cultivars of Indian hawthorn grow 3 feet to 6 feet tall and about the same width. A few are large shrubs that can be trained to be a small tree form.

Compact cultivars of Indian hawthorn are good for use as foundation shrubs, while larger cultivars can be used for hedges, mass plantings or screening. Plants prefer full sun but will grow in partial shade. Indian hawthorn prefers moist, well-drained soil but will tolerate drought. Pruning is rarely necessary but if needed, should be done after blooming.

The hawthorn is susceptible to the same fungal leaf spot disease caused by Entomosporium that has all but wiped out most of the red tip photinias. This disease destroys the leaf tissue and repeatedly defoliates the plant, causing it to eventually exhaust its energy reserves and die.

The first symptoms are small, reddish to purplish spots on the upper and lower sides of young leaves. As they grow larger, the patches have grayish, white centers. When several spots merge, they can form large, irregular blotches. The disease is most damaging after periods of frequent rainfall in spring and fall.

The best strategy is to plant Indian hawthorn varieties that are more resistant to leaf spot. There are several: Georgia Petite, Eleanor Tabor, Clara, Blueberry Muffin, Dwarf Yedda, Eskimo, Georgia Charm, Indian Princess, Jack Evans, Majestic Beauty and Snow White.

The varieties to avoid are Enchantress, Fascination, Harbinger of Spring, Heather, Spring Rapture, Springtime and White Enchantress.

Selective pruning increases air circulation and reduces disease incidence. Infected leaves on the plant and on the ground should be taken from the area.

Several fungicides can help manage leaf spot, including products with chlorothalonil (Daconil 2787), myclobutanil (Immunox), propiconazole (Ortho Lawn Disease Control, Fertilome Liquid systemic Fungicide), or triforene (Ortho Rose Pride).

Applications of fungicides should begin as new growth starts in spring, with additional sprays until about mid-June. Make applications at 10-day intervals during cool, wet periods and 14-day intervals during dryer periods. Applications should not be necessary in hot, dry periods. It might be helpful to make three to four applications from mid-October to late November if wet weather prevails.

Reach Sid Mullis, the director of the University of Georgia Extension Service office for Richmond County, at (706) 821-2349 or smullis@uga.edu.

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