Help! Dying Boulevard False Cypress & Butterfly Bush

squirrellypete(z7b AL)September 6, 2006

Was out of town for 3 weeks for a family emergency. I had 2 beautiful 'Boulevard' False Cypress that are about 2-3 feet tall which were the picture of health when I left. This is their second season in my garden and have had gorgeous blue-green color all year despite virtually no rain all summer and no additional watering from me. Got back yesterday and at least 50% of both shrubs have turned completely brown. They are on different sides of the house planted in well-drained raised beds. Anyone know what might be causing this???

Also have a second raised bed at the office 1 mile away with matching 6 foot tall 'Honeycomb' Butterfly Bushes on either end. Each in their second year as well. They both experience the same sun & water conditions and looked normal when I left town. Now 3 weeks later one of them looks completely dead on the outside. Has practically turned black. Broke off a branch and it's still green inside though so I'm hoping it will live if I cut it back. I've never seen this before.

My mom kept telling me on the phone about how great it's been down South in our areas and how our house had gotten some decent rainfall while I was gone. Everything else in my garden looks better than when I left. Is it possible that some plants who have become accustomed to drought conditions can go into shock from water? It isn't like we had a monsoon -- just a few good thunderstorms. The BB can be easily propagated but I'd hate to lost those Blue False Cypress so any advice would be appreciated.

Sincerely, Squirrellypete

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buford(7 NE GA)

If it is from lack of water, then it may just now be showing the signs of stress from earlier this year. If you didn't water at all, that isn't good. I have 4 false cypresses, 4 cryptomerias, 3 magnolias and gardenias all planted 1.5 years ago and even with watering they showed some signs of stress earlier this summer (I lost one of the gardenias). Evergreens are hard because they don't really 'droop' like other plants, but the butterfly bushes may have.

I have a rule that until the plants are in the ground 3 years, they get regular watering, unless it rains at least once a week for a total of an inch. It takes that long for some root system to become established.

Dig into the soil and see how dry it is. If you go down a few inches and it's dry, then you need to do a deep watering with a slow sprinkler or soaker hose. You may be able to save your plants.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2006 at 10:34PM
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squirrellypete(z7b AL)

Thanks Buford. I thought they only had to be really looked after the first season. We're on well water and I've had to be very choosy about what I water this year because it doesn't take much for our well to pump dry (figured that out last year lol). It does fill back up of course after a little while but I'm always afraid I'll damage the pump if I run it dry so I want to avoid doing that again.

They looked so good all year I didn't realize anything might be wrong but I will check the soil moisture and get those back on a watering schedule if it's dry. Any harm in trimming off the dead foliage now or should I wait?

Sincerely, Squirrellypete

    Bookmark   September 6, 2006 at 10:45PM
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buford(7 NE GA)

You can trim off dead branches anytime.

I noticed my beds were dry when a rose plant in the same bed appeared droopy. Sometimes it's hard to tell. It's been a rough summer.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2006 at 6:33AM
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I have 4 boulevard cypresses that are about 3 years old. They are not exposed to much sun, yet they were doing fine until last year. When we bought the house there were older cypresses that had grown too tall. I kept trimming them but they finally showed more brown than green. I'm wondering if, in addition with not enough watering this year, could the lack of sun be the culprit? They are on the north side, where it gets somewhat damp. Can you suggest another shrub that is as pretty that would grow better under the shadier conditions? We've spent a small fortune replacing the old shrubs..I need some good advice. Should I try to get rid of as much brown as possible now in the late Fall? Hope you can help.


    Bookmark   November 21, 2007 at 4:05PM
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I had the same problem with this shrub turning brown in the underlying branches. If I trim the dead branches out, what will happen next? Will the healthy branches fill in the space over time?

    Bookmark   July 10, 2011 at 9:38PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)


I'm not sure Squirrellypete's problem was the same because he reported such a sudden browning. But, Boulevard Falsecypresses naturally show A LOT of brown in their interior as they age. Removing the dead foliage can help a small amount by letting more light infiltrate the tree and by removing the brown color. The spaces will not fill in, but new growth may somewhat cover over the blank areas. In my opinion, it's not worth the work and these trees (although attractive when young) are best avoided in landscape situations. Very few older specimens are attractive.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2011 at 1:57PM
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