bushes around utility boxes

Asked October 3, 2016, 4:53 PM EDT

Two of the many bushes planted around our utility box last year are not well. They were planted ~ Sept. 2015. We replanted one a few weeks ago. The replaced the inkberry bush turned brown in the center again. Input please on how to get them to survive OR which plants might work better in that area. We live in Ijamsville, MD - if that helps. Thank you

Frederick County Maryland

1 Response

Usually when plants decline within the first year of planting it is due to poor soil conditions, poor drainage, poor planting techniques, too much or not enough water, planting too deeply, too much mulch, etc. Look at our publication on these types of problems http://extension.umd.edu/sites/default/files/_images/programs/hgic/Publications/HG86%20Common%20Abio...

Based on your photos it looks like the shrubs were planted too deeply and there is too much mulch around the base of the plants. In heavy soils, it is recommended to plant trees and shrubs with the top of the root ball slightly above the existing soil line. Make sure mulch is no thicker than several inches and keep away from the base of the plants. Also, some container plants may be root bound within the container before planting. Roots may be growing in a circle around the rootball within the container. If you see this, they establish faster if you disturb the “around the pot” growth direction of the roots. Use a sharp knife or blade to cut four one-inch-deep cuts the length of the root ball. New roots will rapidly grow from the cut areas of the roots.
When watering moisture has to penetrate the root ball.
You will have to water deeply enough to penetrate the root ball. You may have to probe with a screwdriver and check for this.
Check the soil moisture of new plants at least once a week. Soil should be damp to the touch. Water up until the ground freezes. See our website for the planting process and aftercare. https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/trees-and-shrubs/planting-process
Make sure the soil drains well and Prune dead plant material.
In general, inkberry likes a moist, acid soil and grows best in full sun.
Also, check the link from BG & E regarding planting around transformers. There are planting tips for clearance around the boxes. https://www.bge.com/SafetyCommunity/Safety/Pages/PlantingintheRightPlace.aspx