The Q&A Archives: EMERALD SPREADER? JAPANESE YEW keeps dying

Question: My wife and I went to our local nursery to select plants to landscape our home. We met with the owner and selected about 3 thousand dollars worth. He recommended a landscaper who did a fantastic job.
One of the plants that we selected was Monrovia's EMERALD SPREADER? JAPANESE YEW. We thought it was a beautiful plant and would be perfect. We purchased 9 of these plants. They were planted on December 23, 2004. After about 4 months we noticed that 2 of them started to brown and then die. The landscaper replaced them. After about another 3 months 3 more of the originals started to brown and then they died. We called the nursery owner, and he came out and checked the soil and said that everything seemed to be ok. He replaced the 3. Now we have 4 more dead ones. The nursery owner doesn't know what else to do.
We have these planted where they get partial to full sun. The nursery owner checked for, I believe, spider mites, and found nothing. The flower bed is mulched. We have these planted in a row, and we never get 2 dead ones next to eachother. They always alternate.
Can you please help. We would greatly appreciate it.
We live in High Point, North Carolina, and the Nursery's name is PRICE Nursery.

Answer: Unfortunately, based on your description, I am unable to tell you what is happening to the yews. I would suggest you work with your local county extension to try to troubleshoot the problem. In my experience, a situation like this can sometimes be soil related, perhaps there is some sort of unusual soil situation in the area where they are planted. For example, along a foundation where the soil was disturbed during the building process there can be a mixture of soils, or there may be something buried below ground that is causing problems with root development -- possibly something as unusual as an old black walnut tree root, or there might be a soil-borne disease problem. Sometimes it takes some detective work to figure it out. I'm sorry I can't be more specific for you.

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