Large, slow-growing, carefree shrub to 10 feet tall, 6 feet wide (easily kept smaller through pruning). Good substitute for the overused and disease-prone Fraser photinia (Photinia x fraseri). Often confused with true Japanese cleyera (Cleyera japonica), page 246.
Glossy, leathery, rounded oval to narrowly oval leaves are 1123 inches long, borne on red leafstalks; they are bronzy red when new, maturing to deep green, bronzy green, or purplish red depending on season, exposure, and the particular plant. Red tints are deeper in cold weather. Summer flowers are 12 inches wide, creamy yellow, fragrant but not showy. Fruit resembles little red-orange holly berries.
Grow in moist, well-drained, acid soil. Tip-pinch to encourage compact growth. Use as basic landscaping shrub, informal hedge, foundation plant, poolside plant. Good companion for camellias (to which it is related), azaleas, nandina, pieris, ferns. Cut foliage keeps well.
Several interesting selections are available. 'Bigfoot' has large, glossy, light green leaves and a notably upright habit; it grows quickly to 1214 feet tall and only 56 feet wide. 'Bronze Beauty' has bronze new growth and reddish bronze fall color. 'Burnished Gold' produces bright golden new growth that gradually fades to bronzy green. 'LeAnn' has glossy, orange-red new growth that matures to deep green. 'Variegata' has dark green leaves with a creamy yellow edge that turns pink in winter.