Arbutus: URGENT: What's killing my arbutus??

Discussion in 'Ericaceae (rhododendrons, arbutus, etc.)' started by fern2, May 12, 2007.

  1. fern2

    fern2 Active Member

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    Hi,

    I've talked about my ongoing problems with two arbutus seedlings here on a couple of occasions (post#1 & post#2) but I'm now facing something even more alarming & potentially deadly than I've ever encountered (or read of) before.

    A few weeks ago my smaller, traditionally-happier seedling started to wilt. Dramatically. Its leaves got brittle and eventually started turning a pale brown. I've tried more sun, less sun, (a little) more water, less water - and nothing's worked. And even the usual culprit (besides the invisible 'bad' fungi), i.e. a small colony of aphids, has all but disappeared so I can't blame them this time either.

    There's no way I'm over watering. Honestly. At most I'll water them once a week (mid-summer), but usually it's more like every 2-3 depending on how damp the soil is. I keep them under the eaves of my house so they get the light but not the persistent winter rain. They get morning & early afternoon sun and, if it's nice out, they get get pulled forward to bask in the sun all day long. And yes, I did repot the larger seedling last summer (see post#2) into soil with healthier fungi and better drainage - but I didn't touch the smaller seedling beyond adding some new soil to the top of its pot.

    My larger, traditionally-sad seedling is in a pot that's only 2ft from the other plant, it gets sun & water at the same time & in the same amounts - and yet it's happily putting out new leaves & buds at the moment, and is looking healthier than I've seen it since I first brought it home from the store.

    Can anyone look at the photos below and help me diagnose what's wrong?? I know that 'domesticated' arbutus is prone to early die-offs and disease (I've read all the studies & websites), but I'd like to do my best to rescue this little guy if I can.
    Please help me.
     

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  2. globalist1789

    globalist1789 Active Member

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    I think your tree is already very dead. Sorry.
     
  3. fern2

    fern2 Active Member

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    I refuse to believe that :(

    Who else has an opinion?
     
  4. Michael F

    Michael F Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Me, but I agree with Globalist. Sorry!
     
  5. Eric La Fountaine

    Eric La Fountaine Contributor UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    We had a two metre tree in the soil that did that last year too. I also think your tree is dead. Arbutus are just not easy to grow.
     
  6. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Both these and salal quite apt to rot or blight off in watered containers of soilless potting medium. Blocks of these at local nurseries often seen to have been subject to inroads by water molds or other pathogenic organisms. Perhaps even with a regular preventative spray or drenching program dry soil or climate heath family plants such as madrone, salal and manzanita are just too prone to problems under watered garden or nursery conditions to expect or count on success. One local native plants grower recently lost half a commercial size greenhouse full of salal.
     
  7. fern2

    fern2 Active Member

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    Would it be worthwhile snipping off one of the branches to see if it's still green? Or maybe stripping it of its worst leaves to see if maybe that'll trigger it into reviving itself?

    Or if it's truly dead (say it ain't so!!!) then do have any idea why it would have gotten so ill so quickly - going fron healthy & strong (no black spots, no signs of infection, strong leaves & branches) to wilty & brown in under 1 week?

    This is so depressing. I just hope my other seedling continues to improve.... or at least manages to stay as relatively happy as it is now.

    Sigh.
     
  8. LPN

    LPN Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    It looks like it's in nowhere near the conditions that they prefer ... so obviously suffering from moisture retentive soil. Was this grown from seed or a transplant?
    Often the best results are grown from seed in peat pots and native soil. Plant out after a year or when somewhat established.

    Cheers, LPN.
     
  9. fern2

    fern2 Active Member

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    Apart from being in a pot, it's actually in just about as perfect a condition as it's possible to give an arbutus! It's got very well draining soil, lots of arbutoids & soil from a healthy adult tree, lots of sun but little rain, rare but thorough waterings, deep root space, slightly acidic soil, was very carefully transplanted, etc etc etc.

    I did a TON of research before repotting both my of arbutus'. I read all of the academic articles & books about propagating, transplanting, growing, & maintaining arbutus - paying special attention to info about urban trees & potential diseases.
    Believe me, I KNOW what kind of conditions these trees need. And that's what they've got - with the only limitations being (a) that they're in pots (not the ground) and (b) that I bought them as seedlings not seeds.

    They've been doing just fine under those conditions for two years (once they survived that first hot summer in 2005). And the other one even endured a careful & carefully researched re-potting last year without any major upsets or infections. So I don't understand why this ONE would all of a sudden dislike its treatment... It doesn't make sense.
     
  10. alex66

    alex66 Well-Known Member Maple Society 10 Years

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    cut every part of arbutus "ground level"and good luck!alex
     
  11. Eric La Fountaine

    Eric La Fountaine Contributor UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    There is a surviving tree very close to the one we lost last year, maybe a metre and half. It was completely unaffected. The other tree looked just like your photo. Was nice healthy green and then the whole plant just dried up within a week, retaining colour - not blackening. Looked is if the whole thing was freshly dried out, all leaves still attached. Conditions were similar for both. I have no explanation.
     
  12. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    If something kills the roots the water supply is cut off and the top dries up. Little plants in pots could have simply frozen this past winter, however I have seen stock looking like yours in greenhouses at commercial nurseries. The last block I looked at the death was mostly on one side, as though a water mold had gotten going and been splashed or puddled across from one pot to the next.
     
  13. fern2

    fern2 Active Member

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    Sigh... Ok....
     

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