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Monday, January 9, 2012

Privet Turned Brown With Cold Weather. Is it Dead?

Q. My privet hedges turned a copper brown color.  I have three in a row on one side that are really brown while the hedge on the far right still has a substantial amount of green but is starting to get spots.  Not sure what to do to save them. Pictures are attached.

A. These pictures look like possibly cold damage. It could be more than this but I want you to do this to find out. Walk over to the privets and start bending some branches just below where they were pruned. If they are still soft and supple and bend easily without breaking then it is most likely cold damage that caused leaf death.

            If they are supple and bend, don't do anything. They will leaf out again this spring as temperatures begin to warm or you may see them leaf out sooner than that.
            If they all are snapping when you bend them, then there is severe dieback. It is still possible the dieback is due to cold weather this past November. Cold temperatures are very damaging during the early winter if the plants were caught unexpectedly by sudden drops in temperature.
            There was really nothing that you could have done to prevent this. It is the luck of the draw sometimes. However, if there was severe dieback you should have healthy stems closer to the ground. I would wait until late February or March and see where the new growth comes from. I would then cut the dead growth slightly below this new growth.
            Check and make sure they were getting water this winter. Turn your station on and look for water coming out of your irrigation emitters. If there was blockage and you didn't notice, it's possible they could die back from a lack of water. My best hunch, however, is cold damage.

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