The Q&A Archives: Dieing branches on ornamental shrubs

Question: Several of my rhodedendrons,azaleas,and a Daphne Caucasicum (not geographically close together) are dying in an unusual way. It starts with the most terminal cluster of leaves on a particular branch. They turn brown and then die. When all terminal clusters from that particular branch are dead, it progresses towards the trunk to the next set of branches, and so on until that particular branch is dead down to the trunk. It then proceeds to the next branch in a similair fashion, from the terminal tips down to the trunk, until all branches and thus the whole shrub is dead. The leaves are brown and somewhat curled or withered, or in the case of large-leaf rhodedendrons, drooping. They tend to remain intact on the branches, but will come off somewhat easily if the shrub is disturbed quite a bit.
What is going on and how do I stop it and prevent it?

Answer: These plants may be showing drought stress or they may be showing some type of foliar disease. Unfortunately I can't give you a specific diagnosis based on your description. You might wish to take some samples to your UMass Extension and see if they can identify the problem and suggest controls for it. In the meantime, carefully remove and destroy any dead foliage or branches. In between cuts, clean your blades in a solution of bleach and water to avoid reinfecting or spreading the disease. Good luck with your shrubs!

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