Remove fallen leaves or not?

Asked May 5, 2020, 4:34 PM EDT

I have salal and lowing growing mahonia in my landscaping. Is it better to leave the leaves that have dropped off the plants on the ground to compost or better to pick them up? I wonder if the fallen leaves harbor disease/insects that might harm my plants.

Clackamas County Oregon

1 Response

Hi and thanks for contacting Ask an Expert.
Your question will be met with mixed answers. Some of the experts recommend taking up the leaves, others recommend leaving them down. Here's what you need to consider:
Are the leaves diseased in any way? You asked the question, can you see any problems with them? Are there insects that damage the plants on the leaves? Check the leaves out. If not, why not leave them down.
Both of these plants are usually very hardy and do not have a lot of issues. Then consider the weather this summer. It's hot today, will it continue throughout the summer? The leaves provide a great mulch and hold in moisture. You water less. By the way, water deeply when you do water.
If you decide to remove the leaves because of disease or insects, do not put them in a compost pile as both disease and insects can survive if the pile is not hot enough.
I usually opt for leaving everything where it is. Over the years my firs and big leaf maples have done very well with their own leaves and there is a soft layer of decomposed plant material to walk on in that area.
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