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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Monday - December 30, 2013

From: Kenosha, WI
Region: Midwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Shrubs
Title: New Jersey Tea shrub wilting and losing leaves
Answered by: Guy Thompson

QUESTION:

I have New Jersey Tea shrubs transplanted last spring from nursery stock (18 tall, grown local) I live in SE WI. They are planted in part shade. There has been 6" of snow on the ground for weeks now. They still have green leaves on them. They are just beginning to brown and wilt. I also have some in full sun.They lost leaves last fall. What gives?

ANSWER:

Since Ceanothus americanus (New jersey tea) is a deciduous shrub, you would expect that all the plants would lose their leaves as the ones did that you are growing in full sunlight.  I suspect that those plants growing in partial shade are suffering from wet feet.  New Jersey tea is known to require good drainage, and its failure to behave normally may indicate insufficient oxygen in the root zone.  I suggest that you clear away the snow around each plant, drive some 1 inch diameter holes into the ground just outside the root zone, and put sand or crushed granite into the holes. Do anything else that you can to improve drainage.  Later, when Spring weather makes gardening more practical, replace some of the soil near the plants with a looser mix of soil, sand and compost if your present soil seems to retain too much water.

 

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New jersey tea
Ceanothus americanus

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