Usually grown for its showy, fragrant flowers and evergreen leaves, the Indian hawthorn (Rhaphiolepis spp.) is different from most hawthorn species (Crataegus spp.) in that it has thornless branches. In addition to showy flowers and berries, Indian hawthorn leaves emerge a different color than older leaves, adding to its visual appeal.
Indian hawthorns are native to the Far East, including such countries as Japan, Korea and China. They are generally warm-climate plants, winter hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 8 through 11. Some hardier varieties include “Eskimo” and “Georgia Petite,” which are cold tolerant to about 5 degrees Fahrenheit, or USDA zone 7a. In addition to their flowers and berries, Indian hawthorns are grown for their mounding form.
Trunks and Branches
Aside from being thornless, Indian hawthorn branches have other merits. They mound naturally to heights between 3 and 6 feet with equal widths. Smaller cultivars, such as “Dwarf Yedda,” may grow to only 2 or 3 feet tall and wide. Although they are most often grown as mounding shrubs, Indian hawthorns can be trained as small trees by pruning off lower branches. Other than that exception, they are tidy plants that rarely require pruning.
Leaves and Flowers
Indian hawthorn leaves are usually a long ovate or lancelate shape, about 2 or 3 inches long. They vary in color and texture depending on species. Yeddo hawthorn (Rhaphiolepis umbellate) has glossy, dark green leaves, while India hawthorn (Rhaphiolepis indica) has paler leaves that emerge bronze-colored. Leaves often take on a deep purple color in winter. Spring flowers range from pale pink to white and float above the foliage. They are followed by blue-black berries, which mature in fall and persist into winter.
Although it tolerates drought, Indian hawthorn prefers moist, well-drained soil and a medium amount of moisture. It grows in sun or shade and a range of soil types, and tolerates salt spray well. Be aware that the plant may not flower as well when grown in even light shade. If it is necessary to prune -- to remove broken branches or control shape -- do so at the end of the blooming cycle. Within its hardiness zones, you can plant Indian hawthorn at any time of year.
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Rhaphiolepis Indica
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Rhaphiolepis Umbellata
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Crataegus Phaenopyrum
- Clemson Cooperative Extension: Indian Hawthorn
- University of Florida IFAS Extension: Indian Hawthorn
- University of Wisconsin: USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map
- Queensland Government: Indian Hawthorn
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