The Q&A Archives: Berberis dropping leaves

Question: Newly planted Berberis Monler's Golden Nugget did well for a few weeks, then dropped most of their leaves following 4- 5 straight days of heavy rain. They are planted in full sun in a bed to which we added about a foot of leaf compost. We removed the bark mulch from around the base of the plants. It's been 3 weeks with only occasional light rain, but they continue to drop leaves. We're considering moving them to another area, but would appreciate any advice you have first. Thank you, Patricia Murtagh

Answer: Barberry bushes require a well drained location. Adding that much compost may have made the soil too moisture retentive thus leading to root problems which would show as foliage symptoms. Similarly, planting them too deeply or having the soil settle substantially after planting (which can easily happen if you add a lot of organic matter immediately prior to planting) could also cause them to be too deep and suffer root problems as a result. I would suggest you transplant to a location with well drained soil (if you have heavy clay soil plant on a slope or a slightly raise bed) and in full or at least a half day sun. Set them up to a half inch higher than they grew in the container. Also make sure any encircling roots are trimmed or directed outward. Then water as needed to keep the soil just slightly damp like a wrung out sponge - use your finger to dig down and check the soil, if it is still damp do not water yet. Mulch with about two inches of organic mulch in a flat layer, covering the root area but not touching the stems. Since these are new plants you may also want to contact your retailer. I hope this helps.

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