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Why Is Your Cherry Laurel Drooping? 4 Reasons

Why Is Your Cherry Laurel Drooping? 4 Reasons

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Cherry laurel plants are hardy, evergreen shrubs that can tolerate conditions many other plants would die in. However, this shrub isn’t immune to all ailments, and one of the primary signs that it needs attention is drooping leaves. 

Common causes of drooping cherry laurel leaves include winter damage, overfertilization, nutrient-deficient soil, over-watering, and poor drainage. Identifying and treating the root cause is the best approach to perking up your cherry laurel. 

Let’s examine why the leaves of your cherry laurel are drooping and what solutions to implement to bring them back to life. 

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1. Winter Damage 

Cherry laurels are evergreen perennials, meaning they keep their foliage throughout the year and retain their green leaves even in the cold season. 

This shrub is extremely tough and can withstand a freeze that would quickly wilt other plants. 

That said, they’re not immortal or totally impervious to icy winter weather. Winter damage affects plants by deteriorating their soil’s health and moisture levels. 

Let’s take a deeper look at these ailments, what causes them, and how to recognize them and take action. 

Leaf Scorch 

Broadleaf evergreens such as cherry laurels are notorious for getting leaf scorch in the winter. This is a process where a leaf becomes sunburnt from sunlight reflecting off snow rather than from direct sunlight. 

Symptoms of leaf scorch include: 

  • Drooping, yellowing leaves 
  • Brown edges or sections on the leaves 
  • Lumpy stems 

How To Fix

Leaf scorch is a major eyesore, but luckily it should remedy itself in time. Come spring, the affected foliage will naturally drop off and be replaced with healthier leaves or heal the current leaves. 

Unfortunately, the healed leaves may have scarring, such as dark or white spots where the tissue was damaged that winter. The best remedy is time, as these leaves will eventually be replaced with new ones. 

A preventative measure is to apply Wilt-Pruf to your cherry laurel to protect it from light intensity and other winter damage. 

Wind Desiccation

During the winter, cherry laurels retain moisture in their leaves, allowing them to be evergreen. 

Let’s say the winter ground is frozen, and the wind is harsh. The leaves lose more moisture than the roots receive and become damaged. 

The symptoms of this mirror those of leaf scorch, exhibiting browning, wilting foliage. The leaves will closely resemble autumn leaves, or they will appear burned in certain areas, especially along the edges. 

How To Fix

Wind desiccation is hard to avoid without removing your plant from the elements, which is impossible if your cherry laurel is a ground plant or a large tree. 

Wilt-Pruf is an excellent preventative measure for this issue and most winter damage-related problems. A more permanent method is to build a wind-resistant barrier between the shrub and the wind. 

Cut the affected branches and leaves away if the damage has already been done. The plant will recover quicker and look less unsightly in the meantime . 

Salt Damage

In the snowy season, salt is used to dissolve snow from roads and driveways. Usually, this is a good thing, but the effects can turn nasty if too much of this salt leaches into urban areas with a high concentration of plant life. 

Sodium chloride (common salt) seeps into the soil and replaces essential nutrients that keep plants alive, making the soil toxic. It also dissolves into water that usually feeds plants but poisons them instead (source). 

Salt damage manifests in much the same way as wind desiccation. However, it’s much easier and far more crucial to avoid. Unlike wind desiccation and leaf scorch, salt damage can change the physiology of the entire plant, killing it altogether. 

How To Fix

Salt damage requires you to act quickly to stop the shrub from sustaining severe damage.

  1. Clear the nearby salt that’s most likely causing the problem. 
  2. Spray the foliage down with fresh, salt-free water. 
  3. Try to flush out the soil by introducing fresh water incrementally. Pouring a load of water on it will do more harm than good, so only use enough to rehydrate the plant. 
  4. If possible, place ditches between the road and your plant to divert the sodium chloride without removing it from the area entirely (source). 

This is a huge consideration to take when planting. Plant salt-sensitive foliage as far from salt-affected areas as possible, or create barriers that minimize the amount of salt leaching into your soil. 

2. Too Much Fertilizer 

Fertilizing your plants is a crucial step in accelerating their growth, especially when it comes to landscape plants like the cherry laurel. Although this shrub needs fertilizer to thrive, many people make the mistake of over-fertilizing it. 

Fertilizer contains salt, which is toxic to plants when dosed in high amounts. This salt sucks the moisture out of the soil and severely dehydrates the plant, causing it to wither and giving it brown “burn” spots. This damage extends past what we can see and attacks the entire root system. 

Several mistakes lead to over-fertilization: 

  • Fertilizing wet soil. Fertilizing wet soil can accelerate fertilizer burn. Moisten the earth only after you fertilize, and only add a small amount of water to spread it to the roots but stop it from settling at the bottom. 
  • Letting fertilizer settle on leaves. The only place fertilizer should be is in the soil. Thoroughly spray any excess fertilizer left on foliage with water so it doesn’t burn the leaves. 
  • Adding more than the instructed amount. The leading cause of fertilizer burn is adding excessive fertilizer to the soil. Do your research, and only add the suggested amount of fertilizer to your cherry laurel (source). 

Fertilizer burn strongly resembles leaf scorch. Leaves wilt and appear burnt, the same way they would with excessive sunlight. Thankfully, there are ways to combat fertilizer burn. 

How To Fix

Unlike many other plants, cherry laurels don’t need to be fertilized to receive the proper nutrients for survival. They do well in most conditions with regular but controlled watering. If you decide to fertilize your cherry laurel, follow these instructions:

  • Fertilize twice a year.
  • Use organic fertilizer. 
  • Only use the recommended amount of fertilizer.

3. The Soil is Alkaline or Nutrient Deficient 

Cherry Laurel requires soil with:

  • A high organic matter content. 
  • An acidity level above 6.0. 
  • A base or alkaline level of less than 8.0 (source). 

This is incredibly important to remember, as any deviation from these pH requirements can lead to chlorosis and a nutrient deficiency that will cause the Laurel to wither and yellow, leaving it vulnerable to certain diseases and bacteria. 

Chlorosis

Chlorosis can be a side-effect of numerous things, including over-watering and nutrient deficiency. However, the most common cause lies with the soil’s pH levels. 

A high level of alkalinity–above 7.0–typically brings about chlorosis. Leaves weaken, droop, and become paler until they eventually go yellow. This leaves them open to leaf scorch and pest attacks. Sometimes this chlorotic plant sustains irreversible damage and can’t survive. 

How To Fix

Fighting chlorosis begins at the source, so most of the combative techniques involve altering the soil, the process for which is as follows:

  • Identify if the chlorosis is caused by alkalinity or an excess of certain nutrients. Nutrients that can bring about chlorosis are calcium and sodium. Sometimes the issue lies with a nutrient deficiency, especially iron and magnesium. 
  • If the issue is alkalinity, neutralize the chemicals in the soil by adding an acidic solution. You can use sulfuric acid or gypsum to lower the soil’s pH, delivered through a siphon on your sprinkler or diluted and poured directly onto the ground. See How To Identify And Manage Alkaline Soil.

If the issue lies with a nutrient deficiency, read the next section for information on identifying and combating this. 

Lowering the soil’s pH can lead to overly acidic soil if you’re too generous with the solution, so ensure you add one tablespoon of sulfuric acid per gallon (3.78 liters) of water, which will knock the pH down by one unit. 

Test your soil’s pH before and after this treatment (wait a few days in between) to check whether the soil’s pH is too low or too low or requires more acidic treatment (source). 

Nutrient Deficiency 

Like people, plants need a balanced diet and plenty of nutrients to develop and maintain a certain level of growth in perpetuity. Without these nutrients, plants become ill, and these ailments manifest in pronounced ways. 

Iron Deficiency 

Cherry laurels are vulnerable to all kinds of deficiencies, specifically iron chlorosis. This is a chlorotic state caused by a lack of iron content in the soil. 

A heightened alkaline level means the roots absorb less iron; a telltale symptom is if the leaf yellows but the veins remain green. They become weaker, sag, and even begin to develop holes. 

They’re in danger of leaf scorch, even more so than they would be if they were healthy, so it’s crucial to keep an eye out for iron chlorosis symptoms. As you’ll see, however, this isn’t the only deficiency that laurels are prone to. 

How To Fix

You can solve this issue by combining ammonium sulfate with iron sulfate to lower the pH of the soil. Continue this treatment over time and adjust as needed. You can also find special iron fertilizers for your plants, like the Espoma Organic Iron-Tone Fertilizer (link to Amazon).

This fertilizer is high-quality and organic, so you can trust that it will solve your plant’s iron deficiency in no time.

Magnesium Deficiency

Laurels that lack magnesium struggle to photosynthesize, leading to yellowing leaves, premature leaf fall, and a high risk of chlorosis. 

Magnesium-deficient soil typically: 

  • Is highly acidic
  • Is sandy in texture
  • Has a very high potassium content 

The symptoms of a magnesium deficiency worsen over time and lead to stunted growth, poor flowering, and a much lower fruit yield (source). 

Though the potassium content of your cherry laurel’s soil should be closely monitored, it needs a level of potassium and an abundance of nitrogen to flourish. 

It’s vital to remember that although nutrient deficiency can lead a plant to an early grave, so can nutrient excess.

The symptoms are much the same as nutrient deficiency, so regularly testing the pH of your soil can aid you in diagnosing your plants and taking the necessary action to restore them to their former glory (source). 

How To Fix

The ideal course of action is adding an alkaline solution to increase the pH level and applying magnesium sulfate (Epsom salts) to the soil. I recommend the ENVY Magnesium Sulfate Plant Food (link to Amazon) for its efficacy and quality.

4. Overwatering and Poor Drainage 

Overwatering a plant can cause the soil to become waterlogged, drowning the plant at its primary oxygen source. 

This issue is exacerbated by poor drainage, as the excess water has nowhere to go, and the plant has no choice but to try and absorb it all. 

Identifying an overwatered Laurel is easy, as its leaves and smaller, weaker branches will droop, and the leaves will quickly turn yellow. Additionally, root rot is a major cause of plant death where there’s overwatering and poor drainage. 

How To Fix

The solution to this is easy: water your plants less often. To aid drainage, poke holes in or loosen the soil with a garden fork (source).

If your plants are in pots, you can also use pot feet to increase the pot’s drainage capacity. I recommend the UFelice 24 Pack Invisible Pot Feet (link to Amazon) as they’re inexpensive and incredibly effective.

Summary

Drooping cherry laurel leaves are usually a result of nutrient deficiency, damage from the cold, dry winds in winter, or a symptom of lousy watering habits.

Whatever the case, there are always solutions and preventative measures to rectify the plant’s woes.

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Willie Moore
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