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PAL Questions: 1 - Garden Tools:
I live in Monroe (Zone 7). Two years ago I planted 3 Arbutus 'Compacta'. I have never pruned them. This year they took the cold winter pretty hard: over half of the leaves are golden/brown/black, with some already falling off. Will the leaves be replaced or do I need to cut the branches and stems to those leaves and hope for the best? The tree/shrubs are in well-drained soil, mulched, facing south/southwest. The leaves hurt the worst were on the upper and north facing side.
It sounds like you are seeing winter damage on your plant. You should probably wait and see if the plant returns to more robust health, and to see if new growth develops where those leaves have dropped before deciding whether to prune it at all. The local web site Great Plant Picks indicates that Arbutus unedo 'Compacta' can be cold-sensitive. Arbutus unedo 'Compacta' tolerates a wide variety of soil conditions. It grows best in part or full sun and is drought tolerant once established. There are few insect and disease problems, though it can occasionally get aphids and there may be fungal spotting on older leaves if grown in very poor soil. Foliage and flowers may be damaged in extremely cold winters. If you think that there is something else going on besides winter injury, I would recommend taking a sample to a Master Gardener Clinic for diagnosis.
Below are some suggestions from a WSU Extension article:
What to Do for Winter-Injured Plants
Don't do anything until late spring when new growth begins on the live wood and does not begin on the dead wood. Then prune to remove dead wood. Before doing anything, check to be sure the crown is alive.
Prune properly. Do not leave stubs. Prune back to live, green, healthy wood. Prune to a bud, stem or trunk. Give a suffering plant a chance to become healthy again. Prune out only dead and severely damaged wood. Do not prune live wood. The larger the leaf surface area of the plant, the better it can manufacture food and grow new tissues.
Water properly. Make sure the plant is not further damaged by drought. Pay special attention to evergreens and plants situated under eaves. Water properly throughout the spring, summer and fall. Do not overwater. (See EB1090, Watering Home Gardens and Landscape Plants, available at your WSU county extension office).
Fertilize properly. Fertilization is recommended if the soil lacks adequate amounts of basic plant nutrients.
Mulch with a loose organic mulch to maintain soil moisture and protect from temperature extremes.
On damaged fruit trees, remove as much of the developing fruit as possible to allow it to overcome the winter injury rather than produce fruit.
The best thing you can do for your injured tree or shrub is to avoid further stress during the coming season by giving it special attention and care.
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April 19 2012 16:02:30