The Q&A Archives: Dying Shrubs

Question: Had bought and planted ten Japanese Holly shrubs about two months ago. Three of them have limbs which are either dead or beginnig to die, while other limbs on the same shrub show signs of new leaf growth. The shrubs are planted in a fairly hard top soil and spaced about five feet apart. Also have a landscape cloth around them with a red mulch on top. This season we have had not much rain so I have been watering them fairly regulary. Don't know if I am watering too much or not, or if something else is wrong. Can you give me any answers to this problem with the information I have given you. If there are further questions you need to ask me, I will respond back to you. Thanks.

Answer: It is common for newly planted trees and shrubs to go through an adjustment period while they are getting their roots established. The stress can show up as wilting, yellowing and dropping leaves, or even a few dead branches. Once the roots become established, the plants will perk up and produce healthy new growth. In the meantime, the best thing you can do is to water them deeply and regularly. If you haven't already, make a watering basin beneath each plant by mounding up some soil in a circle (about 12" diameter) around the main stem or trunk of each holly. Fill the basin with water, allow to drain, then fill a second time. Do this once a week during the rest of the summer and throughout the fall months. Watering this way will concentrate the moisture over the root mass and allow it to trickle down, wetting the entire root system. This should help the roots establish, which will be evident when new growth appears on your plants. Wait until next spring to do any pruning. At that time, prune out any dead limbs or branches.

Best wishes with your Japanese hollies!

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