Many evergreen shrubs and hedges are currently not looking as good as they perhaps should, with symptoms often displayed as brown, “burnt” leaves at the top or on one side.
The “Beast from the East”?
If the plant is growing in an exposed position there’s a good chance that the cold storms in February, March and April of this year have caused some windburn. It’s quite understandable when you think about it as we had gale force winds at sub-zero temperatures, which effectively freeze-dried exposed foliage. A wide range of evergreens have suffered; laurels, Photinias, Ceanothus, Viburnums, and even conifers may be showing brown tips, especially on the Easterly side.
What to do?
Any leaves that have dried out or gone brown will continue to do so once the damage has been done, so you’ll need to encourage new growth. First of all of course you need to check the watering, dig down the side of the rootball if necessary to see how the water is or is not penetrating. For broad-leafed evergreens you should also prune to remove the brown foliage, but for wind-burnt conifers we’d suggest waiting a while longer to see what they do.
Once that’s done, give them a good feed or two to get things moving – something with plenty of nitrogen and Magnesium should help to kick start new growth, especially if it’s something supplied in a liquid form which the plant can absorb quickly and easily for a faster response (solid/dry fertilisers are fine for feeding in the longer term).
If the damage is not limited to the more exposed parts it may not be wind burn, so it would then be important to check the watering and to look for other possible causes. Don’t be confused with the normal, annual leaf shed – it is normal for older leaves on evergreens to turn yellow and drop off in spring and early summer so, as long as this isn’t excessive you should be fine.
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