The Q&A Archives: Brown Leaf Tips On Bush Cherry

Question: A week ago I planted two Monterey Bay Bush Cherry topiaries in pots along a walkway. I uses fresh potting soil recommended by my nursery and I treated the root ball and soil with a vitamin B1 product following label instructions to help prevent shock. I mulched them with a 2-inch layer of redwood mulch for moisture retention, and water daily until I can see water begin to build up on top of the mulch. However, I've noticed that many of the leaves (especially on the tips) are turning brown and drying out. It has been very warm, with temperatures in the high 80s. What is wrong with my plants?

Answer: You have worked hard to make sure your shrubs get a good start, but it sounds like you are overwatering them. It's true that soil around newly planted shrubs should not be allowed to dry out, but too much water can be detrimental to the shrub's ability to develop roots it needs to stabilize and start new growth. Containers are tricky, too -- if they don't have ample drainage, the plants may feel like they're sitting in a bowl of porridge. The high temperatures may well be exacerbating the symptoms.

Base your watering practice on how the soil feels. One good test of soil moisture is to stick a pencil or popsicle stick into the soil to a depth of a few inches. Pull the stick out at an angle. If soil adheres to the stick, it is moist and you can skip watering that day. The mulch you have applied will go a long way toward maintaining even soil moisture.

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