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Tuesday - August 05, 2008

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders
Title: Loss of leaves on yaupon in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Last winter I planted a Pride of Houston yaupon. Currently, the leaves at the tips of its stems are green and healthy, but the leaves along the stems are turning dark brown and falling off. Does it need more water?

ANSWER:

This one is a bit of a puzzle. Ordinarily, we think of Ilex vomitoria (yaupon) as being the Iron Man of plants, able to live and prosper in shade, sun, dry, wet. The research we did confirmed that, including that it tolerated most soils and even salt spray, which, of course, is not a threat in Austin. This USDA Forest Service website on Ilex vomitoria lists possible pests as being scale, leaf miners, mites and aphids, but said none are considered a threat to the long-term health of the plant. And if there were some insect or disease, you would think it would affect the leaves on the ends of the twigs as well as those in the center. You didn't say what sun exposure your plant has, but one clue we got was that the crown tended to thin out when there was not enough sun, and it had denser foliage when grown in the sun. So, because we really can't come up with anything else, and because this has been a fierce summer with a whole lot of heat and almost no rain, we're going to suggest that you treat it as transplant shock. First, prune the top about 1/4 to 1/3, thus opening the interior up to more sun and possibly better air circulation. Leave as many green leaves as possible for nutrition. Mulch the roots with a shredded hardwood mulch, which will conserve moisture, keep the roots cooler and eventually decompose to improve the texture of the soil. Now, water. Stick a hose down in the soil around the roots and let it slowly dribble until water appears on the surface. Do this every other day or so. If it begins to improve and perk up, then you can try a little balanced fertilizer, but not until it's doing better. Stressed plants can't take fertilizer.

 

 

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