The Q&A Archives: black leaves on viburnum

Question: a friend recently acquired 6 shrubs in pots, unlabeled (i believe they are all viburnum - 2 are definitely 'doublefile shasta') - they are all a pretty good size, but they look AWFUL - alot of black leaves (not spots, but entire leaves black!!)- she wants to plant them all and see what happens since they were free, but they look so unhealthy to me.....can they be saved and planted? Do you know what could have caused the black leaves? Thanks once again for all your help.

Answer: Based on your description, I am not certain what has affected the viburnums. It might possibly be sooty mold, growing on honeydew secreted by insects such as aphids. The aphids might have infested an overhead tree for instance rather than the viburnum shrubs themselves, so the source may not be obvious. Sooty mold can be washed off, and once the insect problem is controlled the mold should stop. I would strongly suggest consulting with your local county extension to obtain a firm diagnosis prior to planting the shrubs. They may appreciate a photo of the overall plant as well as closeups of the affected foliage, and possibly a freshly taken sample of the foliage kept cool and enclosed in a clear plastic bag. I hope it is nothing too serious.

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