The Q&A Archives: Sparse Foliage on Potentilla

Question: I have 5 potentillas that are 3 yrs old. They have looked fine until this spring. Now they have a lot of dead branches--though the live branches they do have look healthy and are starting to bud. What can I do for them?

Answer: Once established, these shrubs generally respond well to a hard shearing in early spring. This stimulates fresh, new, vigorous growth and also enhances bloom production. It is possible that the shrubs experienced more winter damage than usual due to stress caused by last year's drought, and this would be especially true if the soil was still quite dry when the colder weather set it. Trim away any dead stems now, and also shear the plants somewhat to reestablish a more tidy outline. Make sure they receive adequate water and perhaps some complete fertilizer according to the label instructions. This will keep them in active growth, and by late summer they should be back in fine shape. Plan to mulch with a layer of compost each spring.

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