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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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Sunday - July 28, 2013

From: Eutaw, AL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Shrubs, Trees
Title: Leaves turning yellow on Banana Shrub in Eutaw. AL
Answered by: Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

We have a very large (about 12' tall), very old (probably planted in the early 1900s) Banana Shrub in our front yard. It was very healthy until last year when its leaves began turning yellow and falling during the Summer and Fall. This did not happen in years past. This Spring, it bloomed well and put out many new leaves. Many soon turned yellow and dropped leaving parts of the shrub bare. Even so, there is evidence of new leaves coming out. Our soil is fairly acidic. We have had heavier than usual rainfall and milder winters for the last few years.

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants must confess that he was unfamiliar with Banana Shrub, and thought that this might be one of those common names that is widely used, and hard to pin on just one plant. A quick search of the web reveals that Banana Shrub is consistently linked to Michella figo  which is a member of the Magnolia family. It is a native of China, and thus is not in our NPIN Database.

This link to floridata indicates that it was introduced to the US in the 1700’s, and can grow up to 12 feet tall in acidic fertile, well-drained soil.

A link from Cal Poly suggests that it can reach up to 20 feet tall with a longevity of 50 to 150 years.

Information from University of Florida Extension says it can grow in either sun or light light shade, and it prefers a slightly acidic, well-drained sandy soil that has been enriched with organic material.

Whenever you have a plant that has been doing well, but suddenly starts doing poorly, you need to explore what has changed in the plant’s environment; new sprinkler system? over fertilization?

The symptoms sort of point toward too much water on the roots which could be a result of your additional rainfall and  a watering schedule that hasn’t changed to accomadate the extra moisture. Here's a link from Oregon State University with watering tips you might use.

You can get more information on soils and watering from the ACES Offices  in Greene County.

 

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