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Premature Leaf Drop

Poplar with early leaf drop due to drought
Poplar with early leaf drop due to drought

PREMATURE LEAF DROP is prevalent in the landscape due to dry weather. Plants are drought damaged by leaf desiccation, slowing of photosynthesis, and slowing of growth. Leaves wilt or roll, turn off-color, and drop.  Conifer needles drop, current season needles may turn yellow, then brown, and are smaller. Plants in the first three years of establishment (root development) are the most susceptible to extremes in water, including too much or too little water. Drought stress predisposes plants to insects and disease.  Examples of plants that do not tolerate drought include sycamore, tulip poplar, horse chestnut, sweet gum, Prunus, dogwood, maple, azalea, rhododendron, ash, pine, hemlock, Skimmia, Stewartia, Franklinia, and ground covers such as ivy and Lamium. Options for more drought tolerant plants include abelia, barberry, bayberry, birch, Malus, Amelanchier, Ginkgo, holly, lilac, some maples, ironwood, and white oak. Drought resistant conifers include Eastern red cedar, most junipers, Japanese black pine, mugo pine, Norway spruce, Colorado blue spruce and Taxus.

NFG 9/11/2015

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