The Q&A Archives: Leucothoe Discolored

Question: In my new house the builder has planted Leucothoe axillaris. Currently the leaves are turning yellow, then red on some of them and they also have red bulls eye spots, yet some plants remain fully green. Are these plants healthy? How big do they get? Can I trim them to remain short? How to trim? (electric trimmers or by hand in some specific manner?) They'll be right along the front entry walk. They look like they're not evergreen (they'll be sticks 5 months a year) and they'll grow tall obscuring the plants behind them. Should I keep them? Should I complain because they're sick with spots?

Answer: L. axillaris is native to moist and wet woodlands of the coastal plains from Virginia to Florida to Mississippi, though they are considered hardy to southern New England in protected areas. The plant prefers moist, acid soils and partial shade. It is often used in an open woodland/lightly shaded area to give a naturalistic effect. Does this sound like your yard?

This plant is a member of the heath family, and likes an annual mulch with leaf mold, compost, or other source of organic matter. Other than an occasional deep watering, the plant should be relatively maintenance-free. It grows to a height of 3 to 4 feet, and it should be evergreen in your region. I don't think they would take well to drastic trimming, and it would ruin their nice arching shape.

I would definitely contact the contractor/landscaper and get more information. The fact that they are behaving so differently, and especially the bull's eye spots, seems to me like it could indicate a disease problem. If they are planted in full sun and dry soil, then that could definitely stress them and cause the leaf discoloring (since they prefer moist, shady spots.)

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