Okeechobee County sealUniversity of Florida Extension ServiceUF/IFAS Okeechobee County Extension Service

458 Highway 98 North

Okeechobee, FL 34972-2578

Phone: (863) 763-6469

E- mail: indianco@ufl.edu 

Date:14 June 2011

For Release: June 15, 2011 

Quick Links:     Landscape Use     Pests and management     Choosing quality nursery plants       References 

Indian Hawthorn

Florida Yards are now showing an explosion of flowers on many ornamental plants. Many common landscape shrubs used in Central Florida  area are now joining this seasonal parade of blooms.  Indian Hawthorn has joined this seasonal explosion with their attractive blooms and is a well adapted, easy to maintain shrub.

Indian Hawthorn is a native to Southern China, even though its botanical name, Rhaphiolepis indica, suggests that it hails from India. This small to medium shrub is grown throughout Florida and the Southeastern coastal areas.  It is a member of the rose family, which includes such plants as Loquat and Apple.  Well adapted to our area because of its cold and salt tolerance,  its attractive evergreen foliage, seasonal flowers and fruit, and low maintenance requirements make a good choice for local landscapes

The leaves of this shrub are two to four inches long, and alternate on the stem with slightly toothed 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, expect some leaf drop of the older leaves - they  turn 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 can be  white or pink,  measure about a half inch in size, and grow on the ends of the stems in spring.  Flowers are often fragrant, again reminding us of its rose family relationship.  Differences between named cultivars are often 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 period may occur, but is generally not nearly as showy as the spring flush of flowers.

Fruit are regularly produced by the Indian Hawthorn. Rounded, flattened fruit measure about 1/3 inch and are purple to blue-black in color.  They are actually called "pomes" similar to apples or rose hips, with one or two seeds.   Indian Hawthorn is an excellent choice for attracting birds to your landscape for this reason.

Mass planting of Hawthorn Hawthorn spring flowers and foliage Hawthorn Fruit
Indian Hawthorn is a low maintenance shrub that can be used in a mass planting.  Photo: Auburn University Horticulture Dept.  Spring growth of Rhaphiolepsis features star shaped flowers and reddish new growth.  Photo: Carol Cloud Bailey Fruit form on Indian Hawthorn in the late summer and fall, and are attractive to birds.  Photo (c) Jack Scheper, Floridata)


Landscape Environment

Indian Hawthorn is commonly used as a foundation plant in our Florida Landscape, but has gained favor when a number are massed together as a groundcover.  They can replace  turfgrass that might be difficult to mow or lack enough light and can provide a lower maintenance alternative to flower beds.

Indian Hawthorn is well adapted to moist local soils, but will do best in well drained areas. It is moderately drought tolerant once established,  tolerant of a wide range of soil pH conditions; it can be used successfully in  marly alkaline fill soils if not overwatered.  Hard irrigation water can be used to irrigate this plant.  

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 plantings place shrubs 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 their management 

Wax Scale and Sooty mold
Scale insects produce black sooty mold. They can be managed by soap and oil sprays.  (Photo: Peggy Dessaint, UF/IFAS Manatee County)
Leaf Spot Disease
Above:  Leaf spot fungi ( Entomosporium mespili) are favored by allowing moisture to remain on the leaves. (UF/IFAS DDIS archives)
Fire Blight Diesase
Fireblight is a bacterial disease. (UF/IFAS IPM program )

Wax scale and other scales are sometimes seen on Indian Hawthorn. Inspect for these pests in  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.

Red brown leaf spots are one of the more commonly encountered problems with Indian Hawthorn. They are caused by a fungi known as Entomosporium mespili.  If plants are located in shady areas receiving less than six hours of sunlight, this  disease may cause leaf drop. Here is a three step program to deal with this problem: 

Step one  -  keep the leaves dry.  When watering is necessary, do it in the early morning only, so the leaves stay dry going into the evening hours.  Selective pruning and thinning to get more air in the plants will also dry them out too.


Step two - If the leaf spot disease cannot be controlled by managing moisture on the leaves, there are fungicides that are effective against this pest. A link to a research report is  found on my on-line article ).  The products that are useful are fairly expensive and ought to be applied by a knowledgeable landscape pest control company.  (It may not be worth it for a homeowner to buy these product, as there may be left-over concentrate, and a pest control company will make sure all label instructions are followed is a good idea.) 


Step three -  It is reported that some white flowered varieties show some resistance to leaf spot.  If you have to replace any of your plants, be sure to ask your nursery grower for specific varieties of Indian Hawthorne that are resistant to this disease.   While many growers will have no idea of the cultivar, it may be worth it to ask around should you be in the market.  There is a link to a bulletin at the bottom of my webpage - produced by Auburn University  - that lists resistant (and susceptible) cultivars of this plant.


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, i.e.  "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 six 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 Hawthorn. These microscopic worms feed on the roots and can result in plant decline. 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. 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  previously wooded areas. 


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.  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  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 as Florida Fancy grade.  Fancy grades will command higher prices than No. 1. Retail prices for quality 3 gallon plants should range from $6-8 each.

If you need additional information on Indian Hawthorn, review the references on our webpage at http://okeechobee.ifas.ufl.eduPlease visit your county Master Gardeners, or call or stop by your county Extension office.  Our phone number is (863) 763-6469, and you can email us at indianco@ufl.edu .  

-30-  Botanical Print


Culbert, Daniel F. ""Indian Hawthorne brings Spring Flowers".  Vero Beach: Press Journal, March 29, 1998. http://okeechobee.ifas.ufl.edu/News%20columns/Indian.Hawthorne.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  

Hagan, A.K. Akridge, J.R.,  Bowen, K.L.,  Olive, J.W. and Tilt, K.M.  Disease Resistance of Selected Cultivars of Indian Hawthorn in Alabama. [Bulletin 648.] Auburn: Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station, June 2002.  http://www.aaes.auburn.edu/comm/pubs/bulletins/bull648hawthorn.pdf 

Harmon,  Philip and  Semer, Charles R.  "Evaluation of Fungicide Products for control of Entomosporium Leaf spot (Entomosporium mespili) on India Hawthorn 'Alba' (Rhaphiolepis 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 

Momol, Tim. Fire Blight on Pears and Indian Hawthorn in North Florida and South Georgia. Quincy:  UF/IFAS NFREC, 2000.  http://ipm.ifas.ufl.edu/agriculture/non_citrus/fireblight/index.shtml.

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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