Perennials and trees stressed/dying

Asked May 29, 2018, 9:00 AM EDT

This spring we have several perennials and trees/shrubs showing poor growth. For example, coneflowers, abelias, and little Henry iteas are coming up stunted shriveled, and many other plants are showing curled or cupped leaf growth (including sedum autumn joy, lilac, dwarf ginkgo, hydrangea). Some nandinas are also affected, showing stunted new growth with spindly, curling stems. And 3 butterfly bushes have failed to produce any new growth at all. All of these plantings are well-established (3+ years). Additionally some newly planted annuals (vinca) are also stressed and look like they will die. All the affected plants are in multiple areas throughout the property, not just in one spot. Could all these problems be from one cause? Or just a coincidence? Could it be a fungus, and if so should we spray with immunox? Could it be related to the mulch or some other product (preen, roundup) our landscapers used? Thank you in advance for your advice.

Montgomery County Maryland

3 Responses

We would like to see some photos of what you have going on there.
They can be attached directly to this reply by using the buttons below.
Elongated, stunted and twisted growth can be a sign of herbicide damage or spray drift. (it could have been as long ago as last fall)
See here:
and here:


Here are photos of 3 examples of the stunted growth and curling/cupping habit, including ginkgo, lilac and one of the smaller shrubs.

We can be sure this isn't pest or disease because they are more specific in their plant hosts.
The fact that this is widespread suggests an abiotic, environmental problem.
Did this begin just after they were mulched? It doesn't happen often but there is such a thing as sour mulch.
Here is our page on it: Any unpleasant smell?
(Also, tho not related to what you are seeing, we mention that many have too much mulch - should only be 2-3 inches and not in contact with the plant).

Otherwise, we think it is a problem of herbicide drift.
Ask what your people applied and when. By law these records must be kept.
That doesn't necessarily mean it was herbicides used in your landscape. Some can volutize and travel far distances onto non-target plants and landscapes.