The Q&A Archives: Otto Luyken Laurel shrubs loses leaves resulting in brown dead stems

Question: Why are our 12 otto luyken laurel shrubs losing excessive amounts of leaves, resulting in brown dead stems? I cannot detect pests, however, there has to be something eating the leaves. They were planted (in part shade/sun)in April very healthy, they bloomed in mid-May. I water every other day(it is hot as hades here now) and there is new leaf growth. It seems new leaf growth cannot keep pace with the leafs dropping/disappearing. Any advice is greatly appreciated, thank you!!!

Answer: Based on your description it is possible you are over watering thus causing the symptom of leaf drop. Or, you may be underwatering which can also cause leaf drop. The soil needs to be evenly moist like a wrung out sponge,not sopping wet/saturated. To know if you need to water, dig into the soil with your finger. If it is still damp, do not water yet. When you do water, water slowly and thoroughly applying the water at ground level, make sure it soaks down deep where the deeper roots are. After watering, wait a few hours and then dig down to see how far the water actually went, it can be surprising. You should not need to water every other day.

It is also possible that the plants are going through some transplant shock and adapting to their new location, and adjusting to the amount of light they receive where you planted them. In deep shade they might initially lose some foliage due to lack of light, for example.

For the eaten foliage, it is possible that weevils are attacking the foliage (these are nocturnal insects so you might not have seen them), or something larger such as deer. The pattern of damage would be helpful in determining what is the culprit.

I would strongly suggest you consult with your county extension to obtain a more precise diagnosis of the problem(s) affecting your shrubs. If it is something that requires a chemical control, they will have the most up to date information on what to use and how/when is best to use it. Since these are new shrubs, I would also suggest you consult with your retailer.

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