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Cherry Laurel Shrubs Struggling

DevinJ 6b-KY
7 months ago

I purchased 3 large Cherry Laurel shrubs (schipka variety) from a local nursery. They were healthy, bushy and thriving when purchased.

They are planted in a full sun south facing landscaping bed in Zone 6 of Louisville, KY.

Since I planted them, they have always seemed to be struggling. Random leaves in different areas all over the plant continue to turn yellow and drop. The shrubs are starting to look very thin and “sickly” as a result to so much leaf fall. They developed what I believed to be ”shot hole” almost instantly as well. It’s now been 3 months and the leaf fall and overall plant health hasn’t improved.

I feel like I’m doing everything to the best of my ability to help these plants. I water only when the top 2 inches of soil are dry, I water at the base of the plant and I do a slow, deep watering. I’ve often withheld watering these to avoid root rot.

However, I believe this may be a soil issue. I am new to landscaping, so when I discovered a lot of gravel in our landscaping dirt, I did my best to remove all of it before planting the shrubs. I fear that I created a situation where the soil is now compacted. We have heavy clay soil that leans in the alkaline direction, so I attemtped to amend it with gardening soil & compost while planting the shrubs.

Since planting, I’ve tried aerating the area around the rootball with stakes, working gypsum into the soil, composting the plant and I’ve tried letting them dry out a little more before waterings. I’ve also pulled the mulch back about 10 inches from the base so they have more chance to fully dry between waterings. (I have not tried fertilizing because it’s currently above 90 degrees in Kentucky right now every day and I think that would cause more stress to the plant.)

Should I dig these shrubs up and amend the soil more intensely with materials that will help with drainage to avoid potential water logging? Or would digging the plant up during our 90+ degree summer & the potential root damage be worse for them than having soggy soil?

I’m at a loss and don’t know what the best course of action is. Any help or guidance woild be immensely appreciated.

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