Q. My red tip Photinia took a beating this first summer after planting. Should I wait until its cooler and cut the down to force new growth or replace them?
A. I would wait until the beginning of October, gently lift them out of the ground, wash the soil away from the root ball, add compost to the soil used for backfilling around the roots and replant them. After replanting them, I would then cut them back to about 6 inches above the soil.
Photinia can handle our hot desert climate with no problems provided the soil is amended with good quality compost at the time of planting. It also does not like rock mulch. Planted in rock mulch I will give it five years before it starts to look ratty.
The problem is I don’t know how your plants were planted. Judging from the pictures you sent, the soil surrounding them does not look like it has enough amendment added or the amendment was not very good. Also, I’m not sure if you planted them at the correct depth.
You can use the existing native soil when planting them. But you must amend this soil with about 50% good quality compost when planting them.
The rootball taken out of the container should not be placed too deep. It should be the same level as the soil surrounding it. It is very important to thoroughly soak the soil surrounding the plant after planting several times to settle the soil.
When digging the hole for the plant, it does not have to be deep. Dig it deep enough only to accommodate the rootball. It is far more important to dig that hole wide and amend the soil in that planting hole surrounding the roots.
Fertilize them once a year in January and use a good quality iron chelate along with your fertilizer.