Date of release:  MARCH 29, 1998

This article was originally produced  on  March 25, 1998  as a bi-monthly news column for the Vero Beach Press Journal

Daniel F. Culbert, County Extension Agent

INDIAN HAWTHORNE BRINGS SPRING FLOWERS

Our spring Florida Yards are now showing an explosion of flowers on many ornamental plants. Many common landscape shrubs used in the Indian River area are now joining this seasonal parade of blooms. The Indian Hawthorn has joined this seasonal explosion with their attractive blooms. This well-adapted shrub is the focus of today’s column. Information for this discussion comes from the University of Florida Extension Specialist Ed Gilman and the late eminent landscape Architect Frederic Stresau.

Indian Hawthorn is a native to Southern China, even though its botanical name, Raphiolepis indica, suggests that it hails from India. This small to medium shrub is grown throughout Florida and the Coastal areas of Georgia and the Carolinas. It is a member of the Rose family, which includes such plants as Loquat and Apple. It is well adapted to our area because of its cold and salt tolerance that are combined with its attractive evergreen foliage, seasonal flowers and fruit, and low maintenance requirements.

The leaves of this shrub measure from two to four inches in length, and alternate down the stem with slightly serrated leaf margins. They are slightly rounded in shape, leathery in texture, and have a dark green color. The foliage will be clustered at the ends of the many branched stems, which give this plant a very full appearance. In the fall and winter, some leaf drop of the older leaves occurs, and the leaves will turn to a crimson red color before falling off the plant. Some feel that the fall colors are superior to the spring colors shown by this plant.

The flowers of Indian Hawthorn are white or pinkish, measure from ˝ to 5/8 inch across, and are borne on loose terminal panicles in the spring. Flower of this plant also have the added attribute of being fragrant, again typical of flowers of the rose family. Differences between named cultivars of this are based on flower color. For example, one of the most popular cultivars in the nursery trade is "Alba", which means white. "Rosea" has darker pink flowers. Occasionally, a fall bloom may occur, but is generally not nearly as showy as the spring flush of flowers.

Fruit are regularly produced by the Indian Hawthorn. These rounded, but flattened features may measure from 1/3 to 3/8 inch in diameter and are purple to blue-black in color. The fruit are actually called "pomes", and have similarity to apples or rose hips. They contain one or two seeds and are very attractive to birds. Indian Hawthorn is an excellent choice for attracting birds to your landscape for this reason.

LANDSCAPE ENVIRONMENT

Indian Hawthorn is commonly used as a foundation plant in our Florida Landscape, but has gained favor as a massed planting’s as a groundcover. Locally they have been used to replace island areas of turfgrass that might be difficult to mow or lack enough light. Indian Hawthorn can provide a lower maintenance alternative to beds of annual flowering plants.

Indian Hawthorn is well adapted to moist local soils, but will do best in well drained areas. It is moderately drought tolerant once established, and works well in water saving Xeriscapes. It is tolerant of a wide range of soil pH conditions, which will make it a useful addition to beachfront areas that tend to have alkaline soil conditions.

Within reason, Hawthorn will tolerate salty ocean spray if planted back from the dune line, and hard irrigation water with dissolved salts can be used to irrigate this plant. Even though this plant is relatively salt tolerant, place Indian Hawthorn away from prevailing winds near the beach to minimize the effects of ocean salt spray. Otherwise, good air drainage is important to dry off the leaves.

Light requirements for this plant are variable - it will do well in shade or sun. Growth will be more compact and faster in sites that allow for more sun. The relationship of light to leaf moisture is probably a more important consideration when siting this plant in your Florida Yard.

In massed planting’s, Hawthorn can be planted at intervals of two feet apart, but set them 18 inches apart if you are putting in a low foundation or boarder hedge. After planting wait till new growth appears before applying additional fertilizers to the planting bed. Monitor soil moisture carefully and add additional water through irrigation zones that are separated from turf areas. Use mulch to keep out weeds and conserve moisture.

Pruning is rarely necessary where the plants have been properly placed in the landscape. An occasional shoot may be headed back to improve plant form, and damaged or diseased stems should be removed. Otherwise, the lack of pruning requirements will make Indian Hawthorn an excellent choice.

PESTS AND MANAGEMENT

Wax Scale and other scale insects are sometimes seen on Indian Hawthorn. Be sure that the plants are free from these pests when that are brought in from the nursery. Most homeowners find sprays of horticultural oils or insecticidal soaps can be used to reduce the number of these sucking insects to tolerable levels without causing damage to beneficial insects in the Florida Yard. Bagworms can sometimes be found on these plants, and through careful monitoring of the plants and hand picking of the cocoons , large populations can be avoided.

Leaf spots are sometimes seen on Indian Hawthorn. They are caused by a fungi known as Entomosporium. Spots may appear when moisture is allowed to remain on the leaves. Be sure that irrigation is applied only in the early morning rather than afternoon or evening hours, and if plants are located in shady areas receiving less than six hours of sunlight, this leaf spot disease may cause leaf drop. It is reported that some white flowered varieties show some resistance to leaf spot. An effective fungicide is available for commercial pesticide applicators; call if you need its name.

Typical of other members of the Rose family, Indian Hawthorne is susceptible to a disease known as Fire Blight. Effected plants will rapidly die back from the point of infection, and foliage and stems will appear as if they were scorched by fire, hence the name "Fire Blight.". There is no chemical (i.e. fungicide) that is effective against this disease. The only way to prevent its spread is to carefully monitor for this affliction, and prune out the effected stems to a point 6 inches below the effected area. To prevent the spread of the bacteria into adjacent plants, you must sterilize any pruning tools with alcohol or bleach before you make the next cut.

Nematodes are sometimes known to effect Indian Hawthorne. These microscopic worms feed on the roots and can result in the decline of the plant. Because there are no effective ways to control nematode infestations on living plants, proper soil preparation may reduce nematode damage. A key to nematode control is add sufficient organic matter to the soil prior to planting new ornamentals in your Florida Yard.

Another pest problem sometimes encountered with Indian Hawthorn is "grazing damage" by wildlife. One Indian River Master Gardener reports that neighbors in his newly constructed community are having some problems with deer consuming Indian Hawthorn. Consider again that this is a member of the rose family, and you will get an idea of why this may be a preferred food of grazing wildlife in areas where new development is entering previously wooded areas. Call us if you have this problem and need some suggestions on discouraging grazing damage.

HAWTHORNS FROM THE NURSERY

In the nursery, Indian Hawthorn is usually propagated by cuttings, which are used to preserve the desirable characteristics of specific cultivars. Seeds can be cleaned from the fruit and used to grow new plants, but the resulting variation among the offspring should be carefully examined for the presence of off-types and unthrifty specimens.

Indian Hawthorn is found in most area nurseries in several sizes. The most commonly available sizes will be one gallon and three gallon containers. When shopping for this plant choose healthy, vigorous plants that have lots of leaves throughout the entire canopy of the plant - look at the inside branches to see if leaves are present there as well. If you are buying this plant for immediate use for its flowers, look for unopened flower buds rather than fully open flowers. Avoid plants with excessive roots growing out of the drainage holes.

According to the recently revised Florida Grades and Standards for Nursery Stock, Florida No. 1 stock for this plant should be as wide as it is tall, with plants 1 ˝ times wider than the height being considered for Florida Fancy grade. Fancy grades will command higher prices than No. 1. Retail prices for quality 3 gallon plants should range from $8.00 to $9.00.

If you need additional information on Indian Hawthorne, visit your county Master Gardeners, or call or stop by your county Extension office. For those with other questions about Florida Yards, contact me - my phone number is 863-763-6469 and you can send e-mail to indianco@ufl.edu.

Links:

Culbert, D.  Indian Hawthorne.  Okeechobee: UF/IFAS Extension Service, 6/14/201.  http://okeechobee.ifas.ufl.edu/News%20columns/Rhaphiolepsis.htm 

Ferrer, Al.   Indian Hawthorn 'Majestic Beauty’ Rhaphiolepsis indica. Callahan, FL: Nassau County UF/IFAS Extension Service, 2006. http://nassau.ifas.ufl.edu/horticulture/demogarden/plants/hawthornindian.html  

Harmon,  Philip and  Semer, Charles R.  "Evaluation of Fungicide Products for control of Entomosporium Leaf spot (Entomosporium mespili) on India Hawthorn 'Alba' (Raphiolepis indica).  Gainesville: UF/IFAS Plant Pathology Department and Plant Medicine Program, May 2008.  http://www.dpm.ifas.ufl.edu/clinical_trials/pdfs/Entomsporium%20Leaf%20spot%20final%20rpt.pdf 

Popenoe, Juanita.  Indian Hawthorne [Nursery production Plant Fact Sheet].  Tavares: UF/IFAS Central Florida Extension Program (Lake County), 2006. http://cfextension.ifas.ufl.edu/documents/IndianHawthorn.pdf 

 

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Trade names, where used, are given for the purpose of providing specific information.  They do not constitute an endorsement or guarantee of products named, nor does it imply criticism of products not named. The Florida Cooperative Extension Service - Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer authorized to provide research, educational information, and other services to individuals and institutions that function without regard to race, color, sex, age, handicap, or national origin. Florida Cooperative Extension Service / IFAS /University of Florida. Millie Ferrer-Chancy, Interim  Dean.  Last update: 03/20/2012 .  This page is maintained by Dan Culbert