The Q&A Archives: Dying Daphne Burkwoodii

Question: About 2 weeks ago I bought a one gallon Daphne burkwoodii and it was it flower and looking lovely. I planted it in a container of potting soil amended with composted manure and vermiculite, because I know Daphnes like well-draining soil. I fertilized with Bayer's 2-in-1 granular fertilizer (for insect control and blooming). Within a day, young leaves had turned yellow and older leaves had gone curled and somewhat crispy and shriveled, despite the soil being moist. After a few more days, all the flowers have dropped, as well as many of the leaves. I transplanted it again, this time leaving out the fertilizer, because I felt that must have been responsible. Is there any way I can save this plant? Should I lightly prune it? I also wanted to get a recommendation on about how often to water it, because it is in a container. Is once a week too much? How about fertilizer in the future?

Answer: Those symptoms sound like fertilizer burn. Generally, it's better not to fertilize a new plant, as the shock from moving from nursery conditions and then transplanting it is taxing. Fertilizing 'forces' a plant to grow, which is stressful at this stage. I do not recommend pruning, as you would be cutting back tissue that the plant needs to photosynthesize and get itself back on track. Daphnes prefer moist soil. Let the plant, weather conditions, and the soil be your guide for watering, rather than a set schedule. When the top inch or so dries out, water slowly and deeply to moisten the entire rootball, not just letting water run down the sides of the pot. If the foliage looks wilted or droopy, you may need to water more frequently. A slow-release fertilizer is preferable to a plant spike, because spikes can release a lot of souble salts in a very small area, burning roots. If you apply a granular fertilizer, water well before and after applying to help prevent fertilizer burn. Many gardeners dilute the recommended dosage for containers to help prevent burn, or use a water-soluble organic fertilizer that is gentle on the plant. Hope this info helps!

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