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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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Thursday - February 20, 2014

From: Corpus Christi, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Drought Tolerant, Shrubs
Title: Cenizo dropping leaves from Corpus Christi TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Leucophyllum frutescens:I planted a Texas sage hedge in September of 2012. One of the plants is dropping its leaves. It is situated at the corner of an L-shape at the end of drive and corner of road. The others seem bushy and happy. I planted them about 4 ft apart. Wondering what could be the problem and if I should replace or give it extra attention. Thank you.

ANSWER:

Since the other plants are doing well, we have to assume there is sometbing to do with the location of that particular plant. If you will follow this plant link, Leucophyllum frutescens (Cenizo),  you can look at the growing conditions of this plant, compare them with the conditions your sick plant has, and observe what is different. We will give you some suggestions:

Generally, when leaves turn yellow and it is not the season to do so, it means chlorisis or an absence of some needed nutrient from the soil.

From a previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer on chlorosis:

"Yellowish leaves could indicate chlorosis, or lack of iron being taken up by the plant from the soil. This is often caused  by poor drainage and/or dense clay soil, which causes water to stand on the roots. Again, this could  be a problem caused by planting, perhaps without any organic material added to hole, or damage to the tiny rootlets that take up water and trace elements, including iron, from the soil."

According to this USDA Plant Profile Map Leucophyllum frutescens (Cenizo) does grow natively in Nueces County, so your climate and soils are probably appropriate for it, and this brings us back to the area where you have planted the troubled Cenizo. Go out and look at your L-shaped row of the shrub. Do they appear to drain (one or both) into that particular point? This could mean that not only water put on the other plants but also excess fertilizer may be draining into that corner. And, if so, the roots of your bush are drowning. Cenizos should not be fertilized or over-watered. In a word, that plant is being killed by the resources the other plants are sending it.

If you determine this is the case and depending on how big the plant already is, you could take this plant out (now, while it's still relatively cool) and attempt to raise the area by adding compost, sand or decomposed granite, smoothing out the grade so it blends in with the other plants, and replant the original. And while you are at it, consider cutting back on the amount of water the whole hedge is receiving and forget the fertilizer. The other plants may be doing all right simply because they had the one poor victim to drain the extra water onto.

 

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