Are my Potentilla fruticosa 'Abbotswood' shrubs dead?

smlechten(6 (STL))April 10, 2006

This is my second year now struggling to reclaim my landscaping from sheer neglect. I moved into a house with a lot of beds and different plants that I couldn't even identify. Since I had no idea what to do with any of it, or what most of it was - I just left it. We had our babies, moved to China for year, and now that the house looks all but abandoned, I've decided to try to play with it a bit. Mostly I decided to streamline, remove, and prune until I had something more manageable for a newbie without a ton of time to devote. This seemed the best way to start - what I had was just overwhelming, and overgrown.

Last year I dug up all my lilly bulbs and transplanted them to only three locations for ease and a more streamlined look. It seems to have gone well - they all bloomed this year. I also bought 3 white flowering, sun and heat tolerant shrubs for the bed around the light post and planted them according to the directions on the little white plastic tag. These are my problems. They seemed to do well enough, but then got a little brownish towards the end of the season. Now I have just the brown stems and they don't look so good. No green leaves, and no new growth. How do I know if they are dead or just dormant? I can't imagine what happened to them. I know I have clay soil - I'm in a SW suburb of Cleveland - maybe 20 miles from the lake. The bed gets full sun pretty much all day (when we have sun - it's Cleveland). We rototilled the bed before planting and mixed it with some bagged soil. I put in shrub soil, shrub fertilizer, and covered with sweet peat compost/mulch. My only guess on why all three would die so completely (if they are dead) is that my husband uses that herbicide foam to kill grass and weeds in the bed. We're real careful, and don't get it on the plants as far as I know. I imagine there could have been some slight over spray that went unnoticed - but I doubt he would've hit all three enough to kill the entire plant. Normally I can tell if he got something a little bit because that branch goes dead, but I've never lost one, let alone several plants. Maybe the plants are just dormant - but since this is my first full season with them, I'm not really sure. Any ideas? I don't know if I should dig them up and try again - or wait awhile. If I wait too long I'm afraid I'll plant them during the hottest season and they'll struggle to establish. I think I planted them around August or September last year.

Thanks for any help anyone has to offer.


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Sometimes they are a tad slow. Don't give up hope yet. I planted mine even later than you did and am just today seeing little buds on some. I usually leave mine in and wait. Sometimes I flex a branch, if it snaps then it is dead, but if you feel it move and bend and isn't brittle, then at least that branch lives. You can also scrape to see if you have greenwood, but frankly I'd just wait.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2006 at 5:55PM
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How are they doing now? Mine have leafed out....

    Bookmark   April 12, 2006 at 9:04PM
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smlechten(6 (STL))

Well, it appears they are not entirely dead, but they are pretty scrawny. I'm not sure if I damaged them, or if they weren't well established before winter and had a lot of winter kill, or if they usually have a bit of winter kill normally. Anyway, I just snipped off all the truly dead wood, which was probably about 1/2 to 2/3 of the plant, and just left the branches that had some new growth (tiny green leaves). They look a little better without all the dead brown branches, but still under the weather. The foliage right now is very meager, just teeny-tiny little green leaves. I normally don't water at all in the spring because it's pretty damp here April - June near Cleveland. We get regular rain, and some heavy rains. I'm not sure if there is something I could do to help revive my poor shrubs. I'm considering getting either some food/fertilizer or compost to work in around them, but I'm not sure if they are beyond saving. I was hoping I could salvage them rather than have to dig them out and start over. If anyone has some suggestions, I am open to anything.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2006 at 2:42PM
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hi sherri, they are a little slow, but will benefit from a hard prune. they also like a top dressing of compost. if that doesn't do it go ahead with a little fertilizer. prune right away. hope this helps.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2006 at 9:54PM
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smlechten(6 (STL))

Thanks, I already pruned on Saturday, and then went out to the nursery and they suggested I remove some soil from near the stem thinking I may have planted them too deep. There seems to be a lot of thin, spidery roots near the surface though - didn't seem like they were planted all that deep. They also told me to water them regularly and use some Plant Tone. They think maybe I didn't water enough last year because I was told they were "drought resistant" but not that they are only "drought resistent" after they are well established. I watered for the first couple weeks regularly, but then they only got water when I watered the lawn - I didn't concentrate on them. Hopefully they will perk up soon. Thanks for the help.


    Bookmark   April 17, 2006 at 3:15AM
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Sherri, if you have little roots, don't leave them uncovered. IMHE, once they have been pruned and have another year under their belt, then they'll perk up. I don't know about Cleveland, but this was a hard year for newly planted plants. The lack of snow cover and the rapidly rising and falling temperatures were awful on the poor babies. I have a "Mango tango" which isn't looking too hot, but on the other hand, the other one planted the same time and about 10 feet away from it is doing great. Never give up until their toes curl up. :)

    Bookmark   April 21, 2006 at 12:50PM
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smlechten(6 (STL))

Thanks. I gave them a little food (Plantone), a light dressing of Sweet Peet compost mulch, and I've been watering them every other day or so unless it rains good. They've leafed out a little more, still with very small leaves. They are still small and puny looking (smaller than when I bought them!) but they look alive. I doubt I can expect them to flower this year, but hopefully they will establish themselves and look a little better next year.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2006 at 2:40PM
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