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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Why Carolina Cherry Laurel Struggles in the Desert

Picture sent by reader of  the Carolina Cherry Laurel
Q. One of my Carolina cherry trees has some branches with brown leaves and the branches were easily broken off.  I have attached a picture of one of the branches.  There is an area of the main trunk, about halfway up the tree, which is very black.

A. I receive a number of questions regarding damage to Carolina cherry or that they don't look very good. The majority of the reasons why this plant struggles here is because it is native to the southeastern United States where the soils are rich and moist. They will struggle here if they do not receive TLC. The other problem may be where they are planted.

Closeup of the trunk. This is usually due to sunburn on the
trunk due to planting in very hot locations in the yard and
leaf loss that allows direct sunlight to damage the trunk.
Leaf drop of Carolina Cherry Laurel. In this case the cement
and bricks surrounding the plant could poise some problems.
            Your Carolina cherry laurel most likely has been damaged by the intense sunlight of our desert Southwest. When damaged by strong sunlight, we see limb and branch dieback accompanied by leaf drop.

Often times this damage is black with brittle limbs and bark that peels. Frequently the tops of these trees will die as well. They tend to look very
sparse in our climate and soils.

            Because this plant is not a southwestern US native, we have to be careful with it here. When planting it, the soil must be enriched with compost at the time of planting and the surface of the soil should be covered with wood mulch, not rock mulch.

            They struggle in very hot locations. This includes the south and west exposures of the landscape particularly close to the very hot walls. They perform better if clustered with other plants with similar soil and water requirements.

Same CCL as above but showing one is performing better than the other when
growing under similar circumstances. It is possible the one on the left will
do the same thing over time. It is also possible there could be some root disease
problems due to the cement and possible overwatering and/or collar rot disease.
            They may develop yellow leaves which would be corrected by applying an appropriate iron fertilizer. The one I always recommend is the iron chelate EDDHA. It is stable when applied to the soil regardless of the alkalinity. This is not true of other iron fertilizers.

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