The Q&A Archives: Andromeda Leaves Drooping and Turning Brown

Question: I planted 6 of the Browers Beauty Andromeda in June and they were doing fine. The exposure is on the northeast side of the house, they receive approx. 6 hours of morning sun. We added Hollytone when we planted them and have kept them pretty well watered, using either our sprinkler system to which we put in additional sprinkler heads, or hand watering with a hose or watering can. We did our whole foundation planting in June, but our house is not new. I cannot see any damage to the stem or any sign of bugs. These plants were doing fine, new growth, healty looking etc., then one day I noticed they were droopy looking and I started watering them more thinking they were not getting enough water. It doesn't seem to help, more of the leaves have turned brown and they still look droopy. Any help you can give me will be most appreciated.

Answer: I can't say for sure what the problem is, but I can make a few educated guesses. Your Andromeda (Pieris japonica) is succeptible to a soil fungus, Phytophthora, that causes dieback. There are several species of nematode that attack the roots as well. This could explain why you haven't seen any clear cause for the problem. There's no stopping Phytophthera once it infests the plant, but nematodes can be controlled.

Lace Bugs, which are masters of camoflage, may also be involved. They are such a problem in the northeast that Pieris in general don't do well. They are tiny, fly-like bugs with transparent wings (hence their name). If you don't find them, then the problem is probably root-related, but the only way to find out for sure is to have a root sample examined by a pathologist. Contact your local agricultural extension office (ph# 617/891-0650) and find out where you can send a sample. There may be a fee for the service, so be sure to call the pathology lab for details. Best of luck!

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