Ligustrum, why are you dying?

sherigroundsAugust 28, 2013

Ligustrums grow like weeds here, why is mine dying? It has big white spots on the branches, thin & losing leaves in middle. Has always been full until recently. Gets plenty of water & sun. Help, please!

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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Let's see a picture of the 'big white spots '. We might be able help you.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2013 at 2:57PM
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Thanks. Here they are--big white spots on trunk & branches.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2013 at 3:45PM
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That looks like lichen - not usually a problem for a healthy tree. I don't think that's what's making your Ligustrums look sick.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2013 at 5:14PM
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Is that sawdust under the right-hand branch? They can be attacked by the lilac borer (according to the research that I sadly had to do this spring), so look for low borer holes on the shrubs.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2013 at 8:03PM
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Not sawdust, lime. I was told by a landscaper to put down lime to counteract dog urine (all the dogs in the neighborhood love my front flowerbed), and to spray shrubs with Sea Kelp. Neither has seemed to help so far.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2013 at 8:11PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5


you fail to mention in the OP they are the toilet of the 'hood??

there is your answer ..

did you research.. whether lime has any actual affect on excess nitrogen on your given soil ... at what application rate did you apply it ??? .. what is the educational level of your landscaper????? .. and they you spray a heavily stressed plant ....

you have already addressed the issue .. TWICE .... what more can you do??

if you do not solve the animal issue.. your plants will die ... if not from the animals.. then from your excessive responses to such .... i would bundle this under.. loving a plant to death ....

solve the animal issue ...


ps: flora.. the way you say it.. can there actually be a time when lichens harm a plant... ????? .. or was that a poor word choice???

    Bookmark   August 29, 2013 at 8:16AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Lichens are considered, in my mind, a yellow warning flag that the shrub or tree in question is in decline. However, lichens are not the cause of the problem.

I'd like to see some up close pictures of the sad looking upper foliage and branches. Have you noticed any severe leaf spotting, whitefly infestation, or other strange things going on in the upper portions of the plant?

Problems with ligustrum are not unusual, help us figure out what's going on with yours.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2013 at 9:02AM
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Thank you for your help.

No insects, some leaf spotting & mildew, which makes me think it's fungus. Lots of promising buds on outside edges, nothing but sticks in middle.

I have always trimmed around outside for shape, not inside. Do I need to trim inside also for aeration?

I really want to save these plants--they've been here as long as I have!

    Bookmark   August 29, 2013 at 11:36AM
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Ken - I live in a damp, maritime climate where lichen is common, a vital natural habitat for many creatures and not a problem. In fact it's an indication of clean air. But I have noticed that posters from other places have said just what rhizo_1 said, so I hedged my bets. I only know the situation where I live, so I avoided a blanket statement.

sherigrounds - "nothing but sticks in middle." You are right in thinking that shearing over the top is probably not helping the situation. I'll leave it to Ken to come in with the lecture on rejuvenation pruning.

Here is a link that might be useful: Lichen

    Bookmark   August 29, 2013 at 1:23PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Let's not forget that the lime applications could be a contributing factor to the decline of the shrubs. That's probably not the best way to deal with the animal issue. Lime can have a pretty significant impact on soil. Is this a dogs running amok problem or a bad dog owners situation?

I'm pretty clueless about the horticultural uses of sea kelp, so won't speak to that. I doubt that it would be harmful, though.

Sheri, your first picture looks to me like the hundreds of other Ligustrum I've seen with very bad whitefly OR scale insect (especially cottony cushion scale) OR one of the leaf spot diseases common to this plant. That's why I ask about seeing some pictures.

Those yellowish blotches look like they 'could ' be one of the leaf spot fungi. It seems like all of your pictures show these shrubs in the shade. Is that just a coincidence or is the location a shady one most of the day?

You mention 'mildew'. What do you mean by that? Powdery mildew? Black sooty mold?

Your method of pruning is a problem, but this is not the time of year to address that, certainly not with rejuvenation pruning. I'm a big fan of that pruning technique and can promise you that Ligustrum responds wonderfully to it. But I would never recommend it at this time of year.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2013 at 4:07PM
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I was ready to prune the dead stuff in the middle until I got your last post!

The dogs are relatively new (our two), who also attract neighborhood pals, which might contribute to the bad soil issue.

I think you might be onto something when you mentioned shade. The shrubs get a couple of hours of sun in the AM, but shade trees on either side have grown larger, preventing as much sun as they used to get.

No insects, some leaf spot, and black sooty mold Kinda at a loss of what to do now--fungicide? Trim trees? Soil testing? Do not prune at all?

Thanks again for taking so much of your time.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2013 at 5:20PM
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The ligustrums are in partial shade all day long, no direct sun. That would account for their very slow demise--growth of shade trees on both sides.

I can get trees' canopy trimmed if you think it will help. Otherwise, still searching for a cure.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2013 at 1:18PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7 can prune 'dead stuff ' at any time.

The amount of shade is surely a contributing factor to the shrubs ' decline. But if it MY choice, I would absolutely not limb up my trees in order to give these very common plants more sunlight!

The trees contribute real value to your property.....the ligustrum......not so much.

In the late winter or early spring, you can cut the plants all the way to the more than 6 inch stumps. This is the "rejuvenation pruning " we were talking about earlier. In a few short weeks, the plants will begin to rebound rapidly. You'll be shocked at how quickly ligustrum will regrow.

It's only a stop gap measure, however. You'll need to begin a fungicidal routine that might not be effective for very long. OR you could remove the ligustrum and replace them with something that thrives in the shade.

If you are certain that you have no insects (scale?), then your shade trees should be inspected for scale, aphids, or other sucking insects. Black sooty mold only grows on the sweet liquid excrement of insects.

Overstory trees are often the home of the insects and the honey dew rains down on anything below.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2013 at 4:49PM
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Wow, that's a lot of very useful information--I'm so glad I asked.

How do you inspect trees as you mentioned? Even the lowest branches are inaccessible.

I have Bayer Advanced Tree & Shrub that I have used on a "Charlie Brown" tree in the backyard. Would it be harmful to treat without being sure?

    Bookmark   August 30, 2013 at 6:18PM
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Hope you are still around "rhizo_1," you have some great info & I still need to pick your brain!

Did not know about "rejuvenation pruning" (yikes!), but keeping it in mind as a last resort.

Do you think treating with insecticide would be harmful to a healthy tree? As you said, I would be better off to lose the shrubs instead of the trees.

Sometimes you get caught up in saving a small part of the garden without looking at the big picture.

Thanks again for all you help.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 10:27PM
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