The Q&A Archives: Problems With Skyrocket Juniper

Question: We planted two 4' skyrocket junipers near each other less than 2 months ago. One appears to be doing fine, but the other has several branches that are beginning to brown and some of its lower branches droop all the way to the ground. Both junipers are staked (due to the winds in our area), but we took care to do this so as not to damage the bark. In some of your other responses you indicated that browning might be due to lack of water or overwatering. The junipers have received plenty of water due to the amount of rain we have had this spring. They are in clay soil that we partially amended, but that clay is the type of soil they were originally grown in at the nursery. Could it be a drainage problem? How do we fix that? What else might it be?

Answer: Junipers are occasionally subject to root rot problems as well as some diseases that could also cause browning. Overwatering or planting in a poorly drained location (or in heavy clay) could all contribute to such problems. Heavy clay can act as a sump and collect water in the hole where the amended soil is less dense, so that is also a possibility. It is also possible that the surface drainage pattern is different between the two planting spots. Improving drainage would involve amending the soil with organic matter and possibly some sand, digging a very generous hole, and possibly planting on a slight rise or better yet, on a slope to avoid runoff collecting around the plant. You might want to consult with the nursery where you purchased the plants since only one of the two is showing any problems, unless you can account for it by differing drainage conditions.

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