Indian hawthorn (Rhaphiolepis spp.) is beloved for its delicate, fragrant flowers in spring, followed by persistent blue-black berries in late summer. Its tidy, mounding form -- usually growing between 3 and 6 feet in height and width -- also recommends it as a border or foundation shrub. Unfortunately, some cultivars are not cold hardy, so watch out for it in a freeze.
Native to Japan and Korea, Indian hawthorn is usually winter hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 8 through 11. Still, some cultivars tolerate cold temperatures better than others. “Georgia Petite” and “Eskimo” are both extremely cold hardy, withstanding winter lows down to 5 degrees Fahrenheit. This puts them within the reach of gardeners in USDA zone 7b. Most cultivars are not that hardy, however, and should be grown in USDA zones 8 and above.
Protection From Cold
It is best to not push the boundaries of Indian hawthorn’s hardiness range, because it won’t do well in extreme temperatures. However, if you are growing Indian hawthorn within its hardiness range but expect a freeze, you can take measures to protect the plant. Water the shrub well: this prevents leaves from being scorched by drying wind and cooling temperatures. Mound mulch or leaves over the roots of the plant to help keep it warm, and cover the plant with a blanket or container to protect it through the night. Don’t forget to remove the protective covering when the sun comes out.
Many shrubs can be cold hardy without being flower hardy, meaning that although a freeze will not kill them, it could kill their flower buds. More open flowers are more sensitive. Therefore, although flower buds may withstand a frost or freeze, open flowers might wither and fall off. If your Indian hawthorn is surviving but not producing fruit or flowers, temperature could be the reason. Look at the planting location to make sure cold winds or northern exposures aren’t killing buds.
Within its hardiness zones, you can put Indian hawthorn in the ground at any time of year. Although it tolerates light shade, it prefers full sun and flowers best if sited where it gets sunlight most of the day. Indian hawthorn is drought tolerant but prefers moist, well-draining soils. Because its berries attract birds, wildlife lovers should be especially careful to give the plant full sun and protect it from cold snaps.
- University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension: Indian Hawthorn
- North Carolina State University: Rhaphiolepis Indica
- Clemson Cooperative Extension: Indian Hawthorn
- University of Wisconsin: USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map
- Texas A&M AgriLife Extension: Shrubs
- North Carolina State University: Why Don't Shrubs Flower (or Fruit)?
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Rhaphiolepis Umbellata
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