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Growing Indian Hawthorn - Rhaphiolepis indica

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Picture of the Indian hawthorn Image by briweldonb via Flickr

Overview of the Indian Hawthorn:

When I was growing up, I would often go to my dad's business to visit or work. The whole parking lot was full of rosewood trees (Tipuana tipu) and Indian hawthorns. I loved seeing beautiful little flowers everywhere.

This shrub is an excellent choice for the urban landscape. It can tolerate heat, drought, pollution, salt and humidity.

Latin Name:

This species is Rhaphiolepis indica, the most popular kind of Indian hawthorn in the Rhaphiolepis genus. It falls in the Maleae (apple) tribe of the Rosaceae family. The loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) is a close relative. In fact, crosses have been made between these two genera.

Other familiar relatives of this tribe include the apples (Malus), pears (Pyrus spp.),hawthorns (Crataegus spp.), quince, serviceberries (Amelanchier spp.), European mountain ash (Sorbus aucuparia) and photinia (Photinia spp.).

Common Names:

Indian hawthorn is what you will see most of the time. Otherwise, it can be spelled as India hawthorn.

Preferred USDA Hardiness Zones:

If your garden site is in Zones 7-11, this shrub can work for you. It originally comes from southern China.

Size & Shape of the Indian Hawthorn:

This plant will form a mound that is 2-5' tall and wide depending on the variety.

Exposure:

Plant your shrub where it will be in full sun or part shade.

Foliage/Flowers/Fruit of the Indian Hawthorn:

The leaves are an oblong shape and are 2-4". They are thick, leathery and serrated. Look for the top side of the leaf to be a darker shade of green than the underside. Some varieties may have leaves that are red when they first unfurl. Others change to red or purple in the fall.

The lovely flowers are star-shaped and appear in shades of white and pink. They feature five petals and are clustered together in panicles. Some varieties are fragrant.

The dark blue fruits produced are a type called a pome. Other examples of pomes include apples, pears and rose hips.

Design Tips For the Indian Hawthorn:

The Indian hawthorn is one of the smaller evergreen shrubs (can be at or under three feet tall), so it can be more versatile in where it can be planted.

This shrub is used quite often in commercial landscapes. In Southern California, I saw many lining the sidewalks in parking lots.

Use this in a wildlife garden. Birds like the cedar waxwing love to chow down on the fruit.

Growing Tips For the Indian Hawthorn:

This shrub can be planted in most soil pH types. Choose a location with good drainage for the best growth and to avoid problems with root rots.

If you water deeply and consistently for a season so the roots can become developed, the Indian hawthorn will be drought tolerant.

Propagation of this plant may be done with seeds and semi-hardwood cuttings.

Maintenance/Pruning:

Pruning is mainly used to create the desired shape. Some prefer to let the shrub mound naturally. You can also make this shrub into a ball form, a hedge, a standard or a small tree. Do any pruning just after flowering has occurred so you do not curtail next year's bloom crop.

You can also deadhead to remove spent blossoms and make the shrub look more appealing.

Pests & Diseases of the Indian Hawthorn:

Pests include:

  • Aphids
  • Black vine weevil (Otiorhynchus sulcatus)
  • Chilli thrips (Scirtothrips dorsalis)
  • Flatheaded borers (Chrysobothris spp.)
  • Florida wax scale (Ceroplastes floridensis)
  • Fuller rose beetle (Asynonychus godmani)

Diseases include:

  • Entomosporium leaf spot (Entomosporium mespili)
  • Fire blight (Erwinia amylovora)
  • Powdery mildew
  • Root rots
  • Verticillium wilt (Verticillium spp.)

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