Otto leuken evergreen shrubs

Asked August 18, 2018, 5:38 PM EDT

3 shrubs on one side of my porch have thrived for years. The other side I’ve replaced three plants twice @ $50 each. This spring I bought 3 large 24” diameter plants from Kens Garden Center in Lancaster PA. They were not root bound and healthy. I removed 2’ of Old soil from the plant holes and replaced with new soil. With the wet spring the plants were thriving. But, last month the leaves turned brown (again) and that plant is dead. The plant next to it is browning too. Only the 3rd plant looks healthy. These are planted in full sun and watered. on one side of the porch they’re thriving even after 5 years. Please tell me if my efforts are futile attempting to replace for the third time 3 more plants. I really want the planting to look symmetrical but may have to substitute with a similar evergreen. Any suggestions? With thanks, Mary Studham

Anne Arundel County Maryland shrubs abiotic issues

1 Response

We think the issue might have to do with planting practices. When you put the shrubs in, do you loosen up the root ball really well and fluff out the roots in the planting hole? Have you been careful not to plant too deeply? Have you watered the newly planted shrubs regularly, especially during drought periods? We don't recommend putting in new soil into the planting hole. If you are adding a lot of loose new organic material in the planting hole and the surrounding area contains a lot of clay soil, you can get what is called the "bathtub effect." Water stays in a "bowl" around the roots and it can cause root decline due to lack of oxygen. When you plant new shrubs, you can plant into the existing soil. Here is a good video that walks through the correct process for planting a woody plant (in this case, a tree, but the same process applies to shrubs).

It's really up to you whether you want to try again with the same type of plants. Another option would be to try some of the low-growing hollies, such as inkberry hollies.