Inkberry shrubs turning brown and dying

Asked October 22, 2019, 12:22 AM EDT

We have several inkberry shrubs that until this year were very healthy (they were planted about 5 years ago). We have a mix of Shamrock and Nigra inkberries. At the end of summer, four turned totally brown (very quickly) from the bottom up and several others turned partly brown. The problem hit all, but perhaps the Nigra was hit worst. We have removed the dead plants and cut off the dead branches on the others. What is the problem? Is it likely that all the plants will die? Does what they have threaten other plants, and if so, what other plants? If they all die we are not likely to replant inkberries because of this experience, but, assuming they have some kind of disease, are there plants that should not be planted in the same soil?

District of Columbia County District of Columbia

1 Response

Inkberry likes moist soil. It can tolerate some drought and some flooding. We do not see any disease or insect issues on your shrub, so we suspect that either the months-long sodden soils from last year and this spring (twice normal amounts) drowned the shrubs or the severe drought this summer and fall killed them. Or a combination of the two. Once the roots are compromised by one weather event, then a plant will quickly die from another weather event.

We still have a rain deficit of several inches. Water your plants deeply before the ground freezes unless we have a lot of deep rains. Evergreens, in particular, will be killed by dry soil in winter.

We can expect more weather extremes in the future. We recommend always having a rain gauge and being aware of how much moisture your particular plants are getting. Summer thunderstorms, in particular, are so localized that it is very challenging to stay aware of how much rain your landscape is getting without a rain gauge. You can't go by weather reports.