How to Grow Heteromeles – Toyon

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Heteromeles–commonly called Toyon or California holly–is a dense evergreen shrub that can grow to tree height. Heteromeles produces clusters of white flowers in summer. Flowers are followed by bright red berries in autumn. Berries hang on the plant well into winter.

Heteromeles has glossy, leathery dark green leaves that are sharply toothed. The leaves besides the berries is reminiscent of holly (Ilex) leaves and berries, thus the common name Calironia holly.

Heteromeles often grown in native Western gardens. It can be planted as a hedge or screen and pruned to size. Left unpruned Heteromeles can eventually grow to tree size, though it is commonly multitrunked unless trained as a standard.

Heteromeles berries attract birds and other wildlife.

The Heteromeles genus contains just one species, Heteromeles arbutifolia. It is native to California. Heteromeles was once included in the Photinia genus.

Toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia
Toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia

Where to plant Heteromeles

  • Plant Heteromeles in full sun.
  • Hetrromeles will grow in average, well-drained soil.

When to plant Heteromeles

  • Set contianer grown Heteromeles in the garden in spring or autumn.

Planting and spacing Heteromeles

  • Space Heteromles 6 to 10 feet apart.

How to water and feed Heteromeles

  • Heteromeles grows best with moderate water; established plants are drought tolerant.
  • Fertilize Heteromeles with an all-purpose, slow-release organic fertilizer in spring.

Heteromeles care

  • Heteromeles can be pruned to form small single-trunked tree.

Heteromeles pests and diseases

  • Heteromeles is suceptible to collar rot, scab, fire blight, and leaf spot.
  • Hetromeles can be attacked borers, beetles, caterpillars, and thrips.
Red toyon berries - Heteromeles artbutifolia
Red toyon berries – Heteromeles artbutifolia

Heteromeles propagation

  • Heteromeles can be propagated from seed, but germination can take three years.

Heteromeles varieties to grow

  • Heteromeles arbutifolia (Photinia arbutifolia). Toyon. Dense shrub grows 6 to 10 feet tall or multitrunked small tree 15 to 25 feet tall; thick, leathery, glossy dark green leaves 2 to 4 inches long, with bristly, pointed teeth; small white flowers in flattish clusters, early summer.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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