Sickly Morella Pannsylvanica "Northern Bayberry"

Asked August 6, 2017, 1:55 PM EDT

We planted three Northern Bayberry shrubs almost 12 months ago on a slope in our back yard. They have been faithfully watered. In June I noticed the first shrub w one wilted then dead branch but the symptoms appeared to be spreading. Then the middle plant started w the same symptoms. Now the third shrub is starting to wilt. Help!!!!

Talbot County Maryland

1 Response

Usually when a plant starts to decline within a year or two of planting it is due to environmental/cultural issues, poor planting techniques, etc. and not a disease or insect problem.

Bayberry is a pretty tough plant. Since the plants are located on a slope, soil will drain well but may not hold a lot of moisture. Plants can wilt if over or underwatered.

Make sure they were not planted too deeply. 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. Do you remember this? Dig around the base of the shrub within the drip line and see if the rootball is still in a tightball. If so, you may be able to lift and tease apart the root system and replant. 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. Hopefully, the crown and roots have enough life in them to put out new growth.

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.