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Tolerating heat, frost, drought, pollution, salt and humidity, the Indian hawthorn is an excellent choice for the urban landscape.

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Raphiolepis x delacourii Raphiolepis x delacourii Indian Hawthorns are popular landscape shrubs for gardens large and small because they remain attractive all year round. Raphiolepis is a genus of about fifteen species of evergreen shrubs and small trees in the rose family (Rosaceae), native to warm temperate and subtropical eastern and south-eastern Asia; Japan, Korea, China, Thailand and Vietnam. The common name is a little confusing since it is neither from India, nor does it have thorns like most of the other hawthorns which come from Europe and America. These ornamentals are grown for their dense, neat growth and abundant clusters of delicate pink or white blossoms in late winter and spring; followed by showy blue-black berries in autumn. The leathery oval leaves are glossy with lightly toothed edges; and the new foliage is often red or bronze, ageing to a rich, dark green.

 Raphiolepis indica is native to Japan and southern China and grows about 1 to 2m tall. Its oblong leaves are serrated, with new growth emerging with bronze tints and maturing to deep green.  Fragrant, white to light pink panicles of flowers appear in spring. It grows well in large containers and is also a popular bonsai specimen.

Raphiolepis umbellata is native to Japan and Korea and has fragrant white flowers. It grows about 2 to 3m tall and about 2.5m wide.

Raphiolepis x delacourii is of garden origin and is the most common variety available in nurseries. It has fragrant white flowers that are flushed with pink and will grow about 1.5 to 2m tall. There are a number of different cultivars of this plant.

Rhaphiolepis x delacourii 'Kruschenia' has lovely clear-pink flowers and grows about 1.5m tall.

Raphiolepis delacourii 'Anja's Choice' is a new introduction which grows 1 to 5m tall and produces reddish new foliage and dark pink, bi-colour flowers from early winter until early summer. It also grows well in containers.

Other cultivars include a white flowered plant called 'Alba', also known as 'Elsa'; a deep pink form currently under the name of 'Little Susy'; and ‘Spring Rapture' with its pale pink flowers and striking ruby red new foliage.

In the Garden:

Gardeners love their dense, neat growth habit and abundant clusters of delicate pink or white blossoms in late winter and spring, attracting birds and butterflies to the garden. The attractive evergreen leaves are leathery with lightly toothed edges and the new foliage is often an interesting red or bronze, ageing to a rich dark green. Indian hawthorns are fairly slow growing and therefore easily kept at a manageable size; and because they take well to pruning, are ideal for flowering hedges and screening plants. They also work well in mixed shrub borders and flower beds, where they add seasonal interest. Certain varieties make excellent standard plants, requiring clipping only once a year; and all grow beautifully in pots.

Cultivation:

Indian hawthorns grow easily throughout South Africa in both the summer and winter rainfall regions. These water-wise plants are drought tolerant once established, but perform best in the garden if watered moderately during long dry spells. Although they thrive in full sun, they can be grown in semi-shade, and in very hot and dry regions, will appreciate a little shade during the hottest time of the day, together with regular watering. Indian hawthorns are hardy to frost and the leaves will turn a pretty russet colour in winter. They also grow well at the coast where they are resistant to salty winds. The plant will grow near the shore but will benefit from a little protection such as behind the first row of plantings or behind the first dunes. Indian hawthorns will adapt to most garden soils, and if they are planted in well-drained, fertile soil, the plants will need little extra feeding besides a good mulch of compost in autumn and a feeding with a complete organic fertiliser in spring. Pruning can be done at any time but is generally done in early summer, when the plant has finished flowering, but this will prevent the plant from producing its fruits.  

Propagation:

Plants can be propagated from semi-hardwood cuttings taken in summer.

Pests & Diseases:

Indian hawthorns are seldom attacked by pests or diseases, but leaf spot can be troublesome, especially in humid regions. To control this, plant in full sun and ensure there is good air circulation around the plant. Also, watch out for aphids, nematodes and scale.

Caution:

Raphiolepis indica is not documented as a toxic plant for humans or animals and the University of California lists it as safe.

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