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Evergreen, Shrubs

In regions where temperatures never (or very rarely) fall to 0°F/–18°C, these are among the most widely planted shrubs. And for good reason: their glossy, leathery leaves and dense, compact growth habit make them especially attractive background plants and informal hedges. They bloom profusely from late fall or midwinter to late spring, with flowers ranging in color from white to nearly red. Berrylike dark blue fruit follows the flowers (it is not especially showy). New leaves in tones of bronze and red often add more touches of color.

Most are low growers. The taller kinds rarely reach more than 5 or 6 ft., and pruning can keep them at 3 ft. almost indefinitely. For bushy, compact plants, pinch back branch tips at least once yearly, after flowering. For a more open structure, let plants grow naturally and thin out branches occasionally. Plants in partial shade are less compact and produce fewer flowers than those in full sun. Good seacoast plants.

Rhaphiolepis indica ‘Dancer’
Rhaphiolepis indica ‘Dancer’

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Rhaphiolepis indica

Native to China. Grows to 4–5 ft. tall and 5–6 ft. wide, with 1/2–3-in.-long, pointed leaves and 1/2-in. flowers in white tinged with pink. The species is seldom seen in gardens, but its varieties are widely grown and sold. They differ mainly in flower color and in plant size and form; there is variation even within a variety. Flower color is especially inconsistent: in warmer climates and exposures, blossoms are usually lighter, and in general blooms are paler in fall than in spring. In the Northwest, subject to a leaf spot fungus, which defoliates the plants.

Rhaphiolepis ‘Majestic Beauty’

Thought by some to be a hybrid between Rhaphiolepis and loquat (Eriobotrya), this Rhaphiolepis is larger in every detail than the others. Can be trained as a single- or multitrunked tree to 25 ft. tall and 10 ft. wide; as a shrub, it is easily kept at 10–12 ft. tall and 6–8 ft. wide. Fragrant light pink flowers in clusters to 10 in. wide. Leaves are 4 in. long. 

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