The Q&A Archives: Rainbow Leucothoe -- Browning leaves on new transplants and spring flower smell

Question: Dear Experts,

I sure would appreciate your answers to the following questions pertaining to my newly planted rainbow leucothoe:

1.) What would be the possible cause for leaves that are browing from the edges inward? They look burt and are wilty and/or dry to the touch.

2.) What do the spring flowers on these plants smell like? According to an online review, the flowers smell bad. I have checked several references to the plant online and find no other reference to the plant's flower smell -- good or bad.

Please know that my new leucothoe are planted as they should be -- in partial shade and acidic soil. I live in the woods of New Jersey; the leucothoe share space with thriving American holly trees, a variety of pieris shrubs, plus a variety of new laurels and some red twig and yellow twig dogwoods.

I appreciate your help!


Catherine Cianciara

Answer: Browning from the edges and wilting on a new plant would usually be related to moisture stress, these shrubs in particular need an evenly moist yet well drained soil. This means damp like a wrung out sponge, not saturated/sopping wet and not bone dry. Acidic, organic, humusy soil should be fine, but a heavy clay soil might not drain well enough. In poorly drained overly wet soil they can suffer root damage which would then show up as foliage symtoms. Planting too deeply or overfertilizing can also cause root and foliage problems.

They should do well in full shade or in morning sun or bright dappled light all day, or if the soil is truly moist will tolerate all day sun. However, these do not do well in afternoon-only sun as it is too intense and hot when it suddenly hits the foliage at the hottest part of the day. In your area, you should provide them protection from winter winds and also make sure to mulch generously in late fall.

As far as fragrance, I know I have seen these in bloom but I do not remember their fragrance specifically. Usually, if something smells bad or is very strongly scented I will take note and remember that. I checked in Michael Dirr's Manual of Woody Landscape Plants and he simply notes that there is a fragrance. (If there is a problem with a plant he normally mentions it.) In a brief search of other reputable sources I have not found any mention of a bad odor. Keep in mind that fragrance is somewhat variable with different people reacting differently to the same plant. I hope this helps.

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