How To Grow And Care For Indian Hawthorn (Rhaphiolepis Indica)

Indian hawthorns are beautiful plants that don’t need a lot of attention, and provide you with plenty of color and structure into any garden, reliably flowering year after year.

Not sure if the Indian hawthorn is for you? Let’s take a look at everything you should know about this plant.

At A Glance: What You Should Know About Indian Hawthorn

Indian hawthorns are shrubs or trees, which come from the rose plant family, Rosaceae. They don’t usually reach any bigger than 4 meters tall, and the majority of them reach between 3 and 7 feet tall.

These plants are evergreen, with silvery green leaves, featuring serrated margins. Young stems start off as maroon, and mature into a pale brown.

In the last few weeks of winter and into spring, the Indian hawthorn puts on a fabulous display of flowers, each reaching about 1cm across. What they lack in size they make up for in lots of terminal clusters, and they may come in white or pink.

To really maximize on these beautiful flowers, plant an Indian hawthorn near a high-traffic area or seating area as they are fragranced. 

Many bonsai enthusiasts grow Indian hawthorns as bonsai trees for their beautiful display of flowers.

When the flowers are finished, the plant produces tiny black or purple fruits which help provide birds with food for the winter.

These beautiful plants are used to the warm climates of southern China, Japan, Cambodia, and Thailand, among other parts of the world, so are suitable for zones that don’t get harsh winters.

An Indian hawthorn is a good plant to choose if you live in USDA zones 8 through 11, as they will deal with any weather conditions in these areas. These plants are also a good option in coastal areas, as they will tolerate some levels of salt in the soil.

Should You Start An Indian Hawthorn From Seed?

Like most shrubs or trees, Indian hawthorns can be difficult to raise from seed, and even when you do succeed, they will take years to establish themselves enough to flower.

You’re better off either starting with semi-ripe cuttings taken in the last few weeks of winter, or buying an established plant from a garden center or nursery.

What you might save in money if you are successful at growing these plants from seed is soon swallowed up by the time and effort it takes to make sure you keep the seedlings alive, so it is worth going for a plant that’s already established.

It’s worth noting that when you introduce an Indian hawthorn to its position in your garden, you should water it regularly – at about once a week depending on your climate – to help settle the roots into the soil.

How To Grow Indian Hawthorn

Indian hawthorns are not difficult to grow, but to really get the best out of these plants, it’s worth getting their position right so that you don’t run into problems later.

It helps that they grow quite slowly, so if your garden is limited on space, you won’t have to prune these plants very often, other than every couple of years.

Sunlight And Position

Indian hawthorns like plenty of sunlight, preferably somewhere where they can get 6 hours or more of direct sunlight a day. 

This will help them flower as much as possible, while also preventing fungal diseases from taking hold of the plant by preventing excess moisture. 

Another thing to make sure of is that this plant has plenty of space. As it is vulnerable to some diseases, you need to make sure that enough air can circulate around the plant, which will help stop problems like leaf-spot occurring.

When To Water An Indian Hawthorn

Before it becomes established in the soil, an Indian hawthorn needs watering every week or so to encourage the roots to settle into the soil.

After that, this shrub is very drought tolerant, and will largely look after itself, but it does benefit from the occasional watering during a dry spell.

Ensure that you only water this plant at the roots, to prevent diseases from taking hold of the plant.

Pests And Diseases To Watch Out For

Fungal disease is the biggest enemy of an Indian hawthorn, but the good news is that it is preventable.  

Ensuring that you buy healthy plants by inspecting them in person before you buy is one of the best ways to prevent disease, as well as stopping it from spreading to other plants in your garden.

Make sure you plant Indian hawthorns in the right place in your garden, somewhere sunny, with plenty of sunlight and space for air to circulate. 

The ideal spacing depends on what cultivar you go for, but as a general rule, allow at least a foot between an Indian hawthorn and other plants to keep the air circulating.

Always remove dead plant matter from the surface of the soil, and avoid watering from overhead. 

How To Get The Best Out Of Indian Hawthorn

It’s worth noting that you will rarely need to prune an Indian hawthorn, and doing so too often can result in fewer flowers. 

An Indian hawthorn produces blooms at the end of the stems, so pruning too much can even stop the plant from flowering altogether.

Trimming the plant back too often can also result in a vulnerability to leaf-spot, as the new growth that replaces the old will be less resistant. 

It’s also important to be careful about when you feed this plant. Encouraging the plant to grow more during the summer is not a good idea, as this new growth will be vulnerable to colder temperatures in the winter.

Fertilize this plant in spring, giving any new growth time to harden up before winter sets in.

In terms of landscaping, there are many ways you can grow these plants. Some people use them as ground cover by keeping them short, while others prefer to keep them as a hedge or border plant.

It’s worth pointing out that you shouldn’t plant more than one Indian hawthorn in proximity, otherwise you increase the risk of fungal disease developing. 

You might also try growing an Indian bonsai in a pot, or even as a bonsai tree.

Indian Hawthorn Varieties To Consider

There are many Indian hawthorns to choose from, and some are better suited for different planting conditions, so it’s worth taking the time to choose carefully.

Rhaphiolepis indica ‘Little Pinkie’

For a reliable variety that can produce blooms both in spring and in fall, ‘Little Pinkie’ is a good choice. It lives up to its name, growing to a maximum of 2 feet tall, and producing pink blooms.

Rhaphiolepis indica ‘Indian Princess’

For a larger variety that produces both white and pink flowers, ‘Indian Princess’ makes a stunning display in any garden. It gets to around 4 feet high, and produces bright green leaves, too.

Rhaphiolepis x delacourii ‘Georgia Petite’

A cultivar with very good disease resistance is ‘Georgia Petite’, also featuring a compact growth habit, deep green leaves, and unusually shaped flowers that look a little like popcorn. The buds start off pink, and the flowers open in brilliant white.

Final Thoughts

Indian hawthorns are beautiful plants that can be used in small or large gardens without any trouble, as long as you get them in the right position. 

As long as you get the growing conditions right, and don’t place these plants too tightly together, or somewhere that’s very humid, these shrubs will flower reliably for years to come.

There are also many planting possibilities. Depending on the cultivar, you can use an Indian hawthorn as a ground cover, as a container plant, a standard shrub or tree, or as a low hedge in a very sunny spot.

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