Large Joseph Coat Shrub/Tree Losing All Leaves

Asked May 17, 2020, 11:34 AM EDT

I have a very large shrub/tree that a neighbor says is a Joseph Coat.We love this tree...Its grown to 20+ feet high and wide. Always been very beautiful, reds. greens. Evergreen not perenial I think. Twice in the last year it has dropped it's leaves. Prior to that as I recall it kept leaves year round, I have been at this property for 6 years. The leaves first dropped last summer...then returned nicely this year in early spring and we thought all was well...and only in the last week about 80% of the leaves dropped again, happened very fast. There are some very odd structures, like bee hives or honeycombs growing in nbands on the outsides of the trunks. There are 15 or more about the entire tree. Most near the griound, afew at 10 feet up. Any idea if this is causing the problem and what can be done to keep it alive. I live in Humtingtown MD

Calvert County Maryland

5 Responses

We think that the shrub looks like a red tip photinia. The holes in the trunk are caused by sapsucker damage and are not a reason for decline.
Leaf drop and leaf spot on the foliage may have been caused by cold damage and a common leaf spot disease.
Many plants were lured out of dormancy and then were hit with frosts and cold temperatures recently. Also, this plant is very susceptible to a leaf spot disease causing defoliation and we do not recommend planting it. See our web page and management. All you can do is look for new growth. Rake up any fallen foliage and dispose of. Fungicides will only protect new growth.


First of all, thank you for your reply. I had no idea that Red Tipped Photinia could grow to be that large.
So, as to the leaf drop out / removing the dropped leaves and possibly a fungicide are my alternatives. I assume when it warms up (seems like it never will get warm again, it was 50F here on May 18 at 7 AM....) and I use a Fungicide for new leaf growth... should I use a liquid copper type or something with an active ingredient of Tebuconazole? I sill have about 25% of the leaves on the tree. Hoping more will come back in June/July.

Yes, Red-Tip Photinia often reach the size of your plants if unpruned. And yes, clean-up and fungicide use (as a preventative; they won't work as curatives) are the only option if the plants are being kept. Otherwise, since this disease is very common in our area on Photinia and multiple yearly treatments would be necessary, replacement with a different evergreen shrub would be practical.

Any fungicide which lists Entomosporium leaf spot on its label (or leaf spot on Photinia) should be effective in suppressing the spread of this disease. Each product is different (though different brands can use the same active ingredients), so reading the label is important. They will also give guidance on how to apply (if the product needs dilution) and how often. Most products have a small booklet of information on their back label, so you'll likely need to peel it open and read through a few pages since it won't all be listed on the back panel.

You could try forcing new growth - especially to try to make it fuller - with pruning. This page gives guidance on how to trim established shrubs; in your case, using the "thinning" or "renewal pruning" techniques would be most effective. Bear in mind that any new growth, especially lower where rain-splash of spores is more likely, will need fungicide protection.

If you choose to replace it, alternative evergreen shrubs include the following:

  • Holly-leaf Osmanthus (Osmanthus heterophyllus) - prickly, but rarely succumbs to disease or insect issues; fragrant autumn flowers when old enough
  • Hollies (Ilex - many species and cultivars) - some prickly, others less so, some spineless
  • Bayberry (Myrica, also named Morella) - not as dense as the two shrubs above, but aromatic and may produce berries for the birds
  • Anise-shrub (Illicium) - a bit sensitive to harsh winters but often hardy enough for central and southern/eastern MD; would prefer partial shade rather than full sun
  • Juniper (Juniperus - many species and cultivars) - best in full sun


Awesome information and greatly appreciated. I am always very careful to read the labels and will be sure to find the correct fungicide.