My question has to do with the soil in a garden on our property. About five...

Asked July 7, 2014, 9:36 AM EDT

My question has to do with the soil in a garden on our property. About five years ago we put in a new garden in an area near our driveway. Since then, we have not had any success with the plants (perennials) that we added to the laurel, liriope and rug juniper that were put in. This year the juniper and liriope are wilting. I saw an article in the Bay Weekly about a possible fungus causing the wilting. How do I learn what is causing this condition. One of my concerns is that whatever it is might travel to the rest of our property. Thank you, Joan Clinch

Anne Arundel County Maryland

3 Responses

We understand from your question that the laurel, liriope and junipers were put in 5 years ago and were growing well. You do not mention what species of perennials were not successful.
There is no disease or insect that would attack all those different species of plants. Diseases and insects are usually specialists and only attack one species or family of plants. (There are a few general feeding insects, like Japanese beetles, but you would see them.) There is a fungal disease that affects junipers, but it does not get on liriope, etc.. So there is no danger of this spreading to the rest of your yard.
This means that the problem is environmental or cultural, i.e. a problem with how the plants were planted or how they are treated now. Half of all plant problem are like that--called Abiotic plant problems. Here are some abiotic things to think about: What kind of soil was used? Does it drain well? Are plants watered during drought? Are they overwatered? (They can drown.) Is there mulch? How deep? Is it piled on stems? How deeply were plants planted?
Please read through the following publication and see if any of these problems apply to your planting bed:

You can send us some photos to a reply if you like.


Could the problem be a soil based issue such as a fungus in the soil or the presence of a mineral or salt in the soil that would lead to the chronic nature of the failure to thrive.
Thanks for getting back to me. I will read the material that you sent.
Joan Clinch

There is no single fungus that attacks all three of the plants in question. However, environmental or cultural factors are likely. If salt was used on the driveway for ice control last winter, and if that salt could have washed into the soil in which these plants reside, that could be the problem. The presence of a chemical contaminant in the soil could result in failure of the plants in the soil.
All of the plants would suffer from drought stress.
Each of the plants in question could have its own specific malady. For example, junipers are susceptible to some fungal diseases. Liriope is also susceptible to a foliar fungal disease that is usually the result of overcrowding. And, (cherry) laurel is susceptible to leaf spot disease when weather conditions are conducive to its outbreak.