The Q&A Archives: Golden Spirea dying

Question: I bought some Golden Spirea in the spring to replace two dead ones that did not survive the winter. Now the new ones are dying. The leaves turn brown and curl up and completely die. New growth tries to come, but soon withers before they can get established. We live in Herriman, UT with clay soil, but I have added top soil and mulches to the ground before planting.

Answer: Transplant shock can cause the symptoms you describe but as soon as the roots become established they should perk up. Browning leaves can indicate sunscald or root stress. Since the new growth is behaving in the same way, I would suspect a water stress problem. Spirea needs to be watered regularly but clay soils hold water for a long time so I wonder if you are watering too much? Try watering as usual and waiting 3-4 days to check the soil moisture content. You can stick a wooden or metal probe into the soil to see how moist it is. I use a 4' long piece of rebar but you can use whatever is handy. Push it into the soil near the roots of your spirea as well as about 12" away from the main stem. When soil is moist the metal is easy to push into the soil. When it is dry you'll feel some resistance. The goal is to have the soil moist 18-24" deep. It's okay if the top inch or two of soil dries out between waterings but the soil near the roots should feel moist. If it's dry, it's time to water. If it's moist you can hold off on watering for a few more days. Hope this information helps!

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