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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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Friday - July 27, 2007

From: Ventura, CA
Region: California
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Watering, Shrubs
Title: Overwatering and fertilization of whiteleaf manzanita
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Hi, I have an Arctostaphylos Dr. Hurd, southern California coast, several years old, 10 feet, that has a few large branches with yellowing and spotted leaves... also dropping many. causes? remedy? should branches be cut out?

ANSWER:

Arctostaphylos manzanita (whiteleaf manzanita) is a wonderful shrub or small tree, native in the U.S. only to California. Apparently the "Dr. Hurd" cultivar is the result of hybridization. We were unable to locate any specific references to what might be causing problems for your plant. Some clues we turned up include that it is very drought tolerant and much more garden tolerant in Southern California; that is, it can stand some of the special treatment you will give a garden plant. However, it does not tolerate too much watering, nor water standing around its roots. It needs good drainage so much that it will even do okay in beach sand, but not in salt spray. The cultivar Dr. Hurd also needs full sun, while some of the other manzanita varieties can tolerate some light or partial shade.

If you have not observed any insect infestation, and there has been no disturbance, such as construction or planting, around the roots, our best guess is that you have been treating your manzanita TOO well, watering, fertilizing, etc. as you would do other plants in your garden. Native plants are very tough, which is why we at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower center are so dedicated to their use and conservation. Natives are adapted to the conditions in which they originate, and need less of the kind of attention usually given to plants in the garden. The yellowing leaves, in particular, might lead us to suspect too much water or not good enough drainage. Certainly, don't cut out any branches that are not provably dead. Unfortunately, we can't write a prescription for a medicine that will make your plant all well, so we'll recommend watchful waiting, cut off the sprinkler system if you have one aimed at the plant, and hope its own native strengths will pull it through.

 

 

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