La Vida Grande™ Indian hawthorn. (Rhaphiolepis indica)
Photo by: Proven Winners

Indian hawthorn is a broadleaf evergreen shrub suitable for warmer climates, with a wide array of uses in the landscape. Most varieties stay relatively small, making them a valuable addition to smaller spaces. This low-maintenance shrub is useful for foundation plantings, hedging, containers, and mass plantings.

Grown for its neat mounding habit, glossy leaves, profuse flower clusters, and attractive berries, this Asian native provides year-round interest as well as food and cover for wildlife. Tolerant of varying conditions, Indian hawthorn bush is suited to urban environments and coastal locations. Here’s how to plant and grow this versatile shrub.

On this page: Basics | Planting | Care and Maintenance | Pictures | Design Ideas | Freeze Protection

On this page:

INDIAN HAWTHORN BASICS

Botanical name:

Rhaphiolepis indica, spp. and hybrids

Zones:

7-11

Habit:

Most varieties have a compact bushy habit.

Height/Spread:

From 1 to 6 feet tall and 3 to 6 feet wide. ‘Majestic Beauty’ is a larger hybrid that can grow 8 to 18 feet tall and 5 to 10 feet wide.

Light exposure:

Full sun to partial shade

Bloom time:

Late winter to spring; some varieties rebloom in summer and fall

Foliage:

Thick glossy green leaves 2 to 4 inches long are round or oval with serrated edges. New growth has bronze or maroon highlights, with leaves acquiring a purplish tinge during winter.

Flowers and fruit:

Fragrant pink or white crabapple-like five-petaled flowers appear in late winter to spring, followed by clusters of small rounded dark blue or purple berries that may persist into winter.

Is Indian hawthorn toxic?

Indian hawthorn is not considered toxic to humans or pets. The tart berries may be used to make jelly or jam.

Is Indian hawthorn deer resistant?

Deer find Indian hawthorn quite appealing, and can cause significant damage to plants.

HOW TO PLANT INDIAN HAWTHORN

When to plant:

Plant during the cooler months of spring or fall to avoid heat or cold stress.

Where to plant:

Choose a sunny site with well-draining soil and good air circulation. Plants do best with full sun, but can tolerate some shade. Too much shade can lead to poor flowering, leggy growth, and disease problems. Poor air circulation can contribute to fungal diseases.

How to plant:

Loosen soil in planting area and amend with compost or other organic matter. Dig a planting hole 2-3 times wider than the diameter of the root ball and slightly deeper. Tease out roots or make several slits in the root ball. Place the plant in the hole with the top of the root ball so it’s level or slightly above the surrounding ground to allow for settling. Cover the root ball with soil and tamp down to remove air pockets. Water thoroughly and keep soil evenly moist until established.

Spacing:

Allow enough space around plants to accommodate their mature size.

Planting Indian hawthorn in containers:

Make sure pots have adequate drainage holes. Use a high quality all-purpose potting soil.

INDIAN HAWTHORN CARE

Soil:

Indian hawthorn is adaptable to different soil types, but prefers well-amended soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.5. Good drainage is essential to prevent root rot or other diseases.

Leaf spot disease on Indian hawthorn. Photo by: Brett Hondow / Shutterstock

Watering:

Keep soil evenly moist but not soggy. Avoid overhead watering, which can cause fungal diseases. Plants will become drought tolerant once established. Overwatering can cause root rot. Increase watering during heat or dry spells. Containers dry out more quickly and will need more frequent watering.

Amendments and fertilizer:

In optimal growing conditions, Indian hawthorn needs little supplemental fertilizer. In spring, apply a slow-release fertilizer formulated for trees and shrubs according to instructions.

Pruning:

Indian hawthorn needs little or no pruning. After flowering, trim back errant branches and shape as needed. Cut out dead or diseased growth as soon as it appears. Indian hawthorn can also be kept pruned as a formal hedge, though leaves that are sheared in half may look unsightly. Larger varieties such as ‘Majestic Beauty’ can be trained into a tree form.

Pests and diseases:

When grown in optimal conditions, Indian hawthorn will have few problems. However, it is very susceptible to leaf spot, especially in shade or with overhead watering or late spring rains. Other diseases include fire blight, phytophthora, powdery mildew, verticillium wilt, and root rot. Pests include aphids, nematodes, wax scale, and bagworms.

INDIAN HAWTHORN VARIETIES

Swipe to view slides

Photo by: Proven Winners

La Vida Grande™
Rhaphiolepis indica

Zones:

8-10

Habit:

Compact bushy habit

Height and spread:

4 to 6 feet tall and wide

Showy bright pink flowers occur on large panicles in spring. New foliage growth is dusky peach, fading to a dark glossy green. Use this small to medium-sized shrub in foundation plantings, as hedging or to divide garden rooms. Makes a good replacement for ‘Pink Lady’.

Photo by: Proven Winners

La Vida Mas™
R. indica

Zones:

8-10

Habit:

Mounding spreading habit

Height and spread:

1 to 2 feet tall, 3 to 4 feet wide

This newer cultivar has the unique ability to rebloom, producing large vivid pink flowers from late winter into spring, and again from summer to fall. Foliage is a deep glossy blue-green. The shorter stature makes it useful as edging along pathways, as low hedging, or massed as a groundcover. This variety is a good substitute for ‘Eleanor Taber’.

Photo by: Carol VanHook / Flickr

'Snow White'
R. indica 'Snow White'

Zones:

7-10

Habit:

Dense spreading habit

Height and spread:

3 to 4 feet tall, 4 to 6 feet wide

Prolific clusters of star-shaped white flowers appear in spring, followed by nearly black fruits that are attractive to songbirds. New foliage is bright orange-red, maturing to deep green, then becoming tinged with maroon in winter. The spreading habit makes it suitable for foundation plantings, hedging or screening. Resistant to leaf spot.

Photo by: Jim Harding / Flickr

'Ballerina'
R. indica 'Ballerina'

Zones:

8-10

Habit:

Compact bushy habit

Height and spread:

2 to 3 feet tall, 3 to 4 feet wide

This compact variety blooms profusely with rose-pink flowers in spring and may rebloom sporadically in fall. Foliage takes on hints of bronze-red in fall. Suitable for small spaces and containers. Use as hedging along a patio or pathway or use to divide garden rooms. Resistant to damage from wind or pollution.

Photo by: Keane Landscaping / Flickr

'Clara'
R. indica 'Clara'

Zones:

7-11

Habit:

Compact bushy habit

Height and spread:

3 to 4 feet tall and wide

This disease-resistant variety produces glossy leaves with coppery red new growth in spring which fades to bright green. From late winter to early spring, prolific clusters of pink flower buds open into clean white flowers. Fruit is insignificant. Use this smaller form as a groundcover, accent or foundation planting. Resistant to leaf spot.

Photo by: Napa Art / Shutterstock

'Pink Lady'
R. indica 'Pink Lady'

Zones:

7-11

Habit:

Compact bushy habit

Height and spread:

4 to 6 feet tall and wide

Bright reddish-orange new foliage in spring matures to rich glossy green, with deep maroon winter coloring. Showy clusters of shell-pink flowers appear over an extended time from late winter to early spring. Fruit is insignificant. Plant as hedging along a foundation, fence or wall; use in mass plantings or as a stand-alone accent.

Photo by: Casey K. Bishop / Shutterstock

'Indian Princess'
R. indica 'Indian Princess'

Zones:

7-11

Habit:

Dense bushy habit

Height and spread:

3 to 4 feet tall, 4 to 5 feet wide

Flowers start out pale pink, aging to white, creating an eye-catching bicolor effect. Spring blossoms are followed by small dark fruits. Use as pathway edging, to divide garden rooms or in foundation plantings. Resistant to leaf spot.

Indian hawthorn alternatives:

Substitute Indian hawthorn with other similar looking shrubs such as aucuba, holly, boxwood or waxleaf privet.

USING INDIAN HAWTHORN IN THE LANDSCAPE

Here are some ideas on how to use this versatile shrub:

  • Divide garden rooms with a smaller slow-growing form that can easily be kept pruned to the desired size.
  • Combine Indian hawthorn with other shrubs that bloom at different times such as daphne, hydrangea, and bluebeard for sequential color throughout the growing season.
  • Create a foundation planting along the front of your home with Indian hawthorn and other smaller shrubs with interesting foliage, flowers, and fruit for a captivating display.
  • Place a large decorative container in a prominent sunny spot and plant an Indian hawthorn as a year-round accent.
  • Use a low, spreading type as a groundcover along a slope or hillside for attractive low-maintenance erosion control.
  • Edge a pathway with a dwarf variety for easy year-round color.
  • Use a larger variety as privacy screening or train into a small tree.

Companion plants:Companion plants for Indian hawthorn include aucuba, juniper, Yaupon holly, strawberry bush, crape myrtle, and cotoneaster.

DOES INDIAN HAWTHORN FREEZE?

If winter temperatures dip below 20 degrees F, Indian hawthorn shrubs can suffer from cold damage. Leaves become wilted before turning brown or black. Bark may split or crack along the trunk. In extreme cases, plants will die. Healthy plants will be more resilient.

To help prevent freeze damage, follow these steps:

  • Make sure plants are in a site that receives full sun.
  • Microclimates offer additional protection, such as sites against buildings, near pavement that radiates heat, areas with southern exposure, and shelter from desiccating winds.
  • Stop fertilizing plants in fall to avoid stimulating new growth, which is more prone to cold injury.
  • If soil is dry, water plants well to prevent drought stress.
  • Apply several inches of mulch around the base to insulate roots.
  • During cold spells, cover plants with cloth or burlap.
  • In marginal climates, plant cultivars that are more cold tolerant.

If plants suffer cold damage, wait until spring before taking any further action. When the weather warms, look for new leaf growth and inspect trunks to see if there’s live green wood underneath the bark. If the plant is still alive, remove any affected foliage, as well as dead or damaged branches. Resume normal watering and fertilizing. Remove dead plants.

RELATED:
Shrubs 101
Top 15 Evergreen Shrubs for Your Garden
16 Best Flowering Shrubs

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