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2nd shrub to struggle in same spot

Hello, I have a spotted laurel that has started to droop and shrivel up. It's planted against a north facing fence. The soil is damp but not waterlogged. They're usually so tough and resilient which is why I planted it there. 

The thing is it replaced a skimmia that had grown well for 5-6 years then did the same thing last year. Started with part of the plant then spread to the whole thing and died. 

Do you think it's some kind of virus/bacteria in the soil? I did remove a large chunk of the soil when I replanted just in case. There's a climbing hydrangea growing behind it that seems fine at the moment.

Any ideas? I'm wondering whether I'd be better off replacing it with something in a container instead if it does die. 


  • Lizzie27Lizzie27 SomersetPosts: 9,648
    The only thing I can think of is that there appears to be a lot of competition  from other plants in that corner. Laurels can also get pretty big, as can climbing hydrangeas so there might not be room for both.

    When did you plant the laurel?
  • Busy-LizzieBusy-Lizzie Posts: 19,193
    edited 17 July
    I don't think that would affect the laurel. They are, as you say, pretty tough. There must be something in the soil, vine weevil grubs or something that someone has emptied there. If you change the soil you will have to change quite a lot of it.
    Dordogne and Norfolk
  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 79,464
    edited 17 July
    It’s interesting that none of the more shallow rooted plants around the laurel seem affected … so that makes me think that either

    1) there’s not enough depth of soil there for a deeper rooted plant (it looks close to a building … is that a down pipe I can see to the left? Maybe there’s a soak away or perhaps the footings extend out)


    2) there’s something in the soil deeper down that’s affecting the roots once they reach that far down.  What it might be we can’t know without investigation. 

    I would add that the space is nowhere big enough for a laurel. 

    If it were me I would plant an herbaceous perennial or two  there … penstemon perhaps, and maybe one of the taller asters 

     … but that’s just me, it’s your garden but a laurel is much too big. 

    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh

  • Allotment BoyAllotment Boy North London Posts: 5,315
    edited 17 July
    I have just lost an Osmanthus to honey fungus. I  spoke to an RHS  expert, and a plant dieing one branch at a time is classic.  Dig down where the main stem meets the soil, cut away a small sliver of bark. If its infected there will be white threads under the bark. If it's  confirmed you won't be able to grow another susceptible woody plant there for at least a year.  I  am in the process of getting my plant out, I will be removing as much soil and root from the area as I  can .
    Edited to add: I will be putting a slab down and putting a large container there for a year or two. Fingers crossed it doesn't spread to anything else. 
    AB Still learning

  • Robert WestRobert West Posts: 147
    Thanks all for your comments.

    There's definitely enough depth to the soil. The plant has only been in since this time last year so I may try and lift it to check for vine weevils once this mini heatwave is over. I can see if the roots look ok.

    Regarding it looking a bit crowded, the Dicentra in the pot is only there temporarily whilst it dies back. I only put it there a week ago. The small fern wasn't planted it just appeared this year. I'll probably transplant it once it gets a bit bigger. The cyclamens, lamiums are just shallow rooted ground cover that I wouldn't have thought would cause the laurel too many problems. 

    I have three other spotted laurels that I keep to 3-4ft by pruning 1/3 of the stems back hard in spring each year. Even after eight years they haven't gotten too big and look nice and bushy. I was planning on keeping this one to that same size.

    Yesterday evening I did check the soil around the base of the plant again and it did feel a bit damper than I'd expect. I wonder if that bit of the border is holding water too much and that the roots are getting waterlogged? 

  • JennyJJennyJ DoncasterPosts: 6,633
    It's hard to imagine how it could be waterlogging at this time of year unless there's something like a leaking water pipe nearby, or something blocking the drainage.
  • Robert WestRobert West Posts: 147
    Ok, so I MAY have used my sprinkler a few times on the lawn. It's only small, don't all crucify me! It's a dark, slightly low part of the garden so it could be it got a bit too wet?

     Alternatively it might have been winter wet. That's what I put the Skimmia dying down to. But again I figured a Spotted Laurel would cope with anything. 
  • Allotment BoyAllotment Boy North London Posts: 5,315
    My money is still on Honey Fungus. Loosing one plant on a spot is bad luck two there's a problem in the soil. 
    I  went through all the,  is it too wet / too dry scenario's too before I found the real culprit. 
    AB Still learning

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