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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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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 - May 02, 2011

From: Los Angeles, CA
Region: California
Topic: Trees
Title: Why are my potted Prunus caroliniana plants shedding leaves in LA, CA?
Answered by: Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

I bought Prunus caroliniana in pots to use as privacy fence on my balcony. Have had them for about 6 weeks and they are shedding a lot of leaves. Some leave are drying out and others have what looks like small insect bitten holes. I water them twice a week. Any tips on how I can stop the leaves from shedding would be much appreciated. Thanks

ANSWER:

We’ve recommended Prunus caroliniana (Cherry laurel) for privacy fences before, but never on a balcony; an interesting concept.
Mr. Smarty Plants thinks you have two problems to deal with; one is some sort of insect that is eating the leaves, and the other is that you are perhaps drowning your plants.

  Follow the link above to the Native Plant Database page and scroll down to:
  Growing Conditions
  Water Use: Medium
  Light Requirement: Sun, Part Shade
  Soil Moisture: Moist
  Cold Tolerant: yes
  Soil Description: Moist, deep, loamy, well-drained soils. Clay Loam, Medium Loam,  Sandy Loam, Sandy
  Conditions Comments: Likes the moist, well-drained soils of its natural range. Prolonged saturation            can cause root rot, particularly in clay soils. Shallow, nutrient-poor, rocky soils can cause chlorosis and   heat stress.
There are two key pieces of information here:”Water Use: medium”, and “well drained soils”. 

Watering twice a week may be just too much water. Try letting the surface of the soil become dry before adding more water to the pots. This link from Naturehills.com has some hints about watering plants.

One approach to getting rid of insects is to use insecticidal soaps. This link from Colorado State University Extension has some information you can use.

To get help with identifying the pest, contact the folks at the LA County Cooperative Extension Office of University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources.

 

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