Hedges perform multiple functions. They provide privacy and separate spaces while being an excellent backdrop for flower beds. However, when the leaves start falling off, the hedge loses its appeal and will no longer be helpful to you.
Here are eight reasons why hedges lose their leaves:
- Water-logged soil.
- Insufficient soil oxygen.
- Curl grubs may have destroyed the roots.
- Temperature fluctuations.
- Prolonged drought.
- Seasonal changes.
- Deer damage.
- Hedge diseases.
In this article, I’ll discuss the causes behind hedges losing their leaves in detail, what you can do to prevent it, and solutions when the leaves start falling off.
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1. Water-logged Soil
You should check the soil to see if the leaves on your hedge are falling off. Water-logged soil will deprive the plants’ roots of oxygen. When the soil is water-logged, the plant roots are less porous. The hedge’s roots take in less water and do not absorb nutrients.
Over time, toxins build up around the roots before they begin to die. Insufficient nutrient absorption also means the plant starts to starve.
One of the outcomes is yellowing and drying leaves which eventually start falling off. The hedge’s roots will eventually rot if you don’t take measures to reduce the water in the soil (source).
Soil management is critical if you are to control water-logged soil.
- Ensure the soil drains well. If your area has clay soil, you will almost certainly have issues with drainage. You can add organic compost, composted leaves, peat moss, pine bark, or gypsum.
- Incorporate at least a 6-inch layer of garden soil.
- Avoid mulching the soil during the rainy season.
- Plant hedges that tolerate wet soil.
Many people prefer using Calcium Sulfate Dihydrate (Gypsum) (link to Amazon) to improve the soil’s drainage.
Common Evergreen Hedges
|Evergreen Hedge||Features||USDA Zone|
|Atlantic White Cedar||– Dwarf evergreen hedge. |
– Thrives in wet soil.
– Light green needle-like leaves.
– Leaves turn to a bronze shade in winter.
– Grows in full sun.
– Best grown in a mixed shrub border.
|3 – 8|
|Buttonbush||– Clumping shrub.|
– Dark green leaves.
– Round, purple flowers bloom from winter to late spring.
– Grows and spreads to 6ft (1.8m)
|9 – 11|
|Southern wax myrtle||– Grows and spreads to 20ft (6.09m). |
– Gets dark purple fruits in winter.
– Light, olive green leaves.
|6 – 11|
|Japanese false cypress||– Grows 20ft (6.09m) tall and 6ft (1.8m) wide.|
– Thrive in full sun and moist soil.
– It has a narrow conical shape that grows to a large shrub.
|4 – 8|
|Oleander||– Grows 20ft (6.09m) tall and 12ft (3.6m) wide.|
– Sprouts 3-inch (7.62cm) flower clusters bloom from spring to fall.
– Yellow, red, apricot, and pink flowers.
– The entire plant is poisonous when ingested.
|8 – 11|
|Sheep Laurel||– Grows to 3ft (0.91m) and 4ft (1.2m) tall and wide, respectively. |
– It has small white, red, or pink flowers growing in clusters.
– Bluish-green leaves.
– Thrives in moist, acidic soil.
|7 – 8|
|Hollies||– Thrives in full or partial sun.|
– Moist soil. Grows to 10 ft (3.04m) tall and wide.
– Dwarf varieties make great short hedges.
– Dark green leaves.
|2 – 11|
Evergreen hedges thrive in wet soils.
This video is an excellent guide on how best to water mature hedges.
2. Insufficient Soil Oxygen
Low soil oxygen may also be why your hedges are losing leaves. Overwatering is one of the reasons soil oxygen diminishes (source).
The excess water displaces the oxygen. Other causes of insufficient soil oxygen include soil compaction and a hedge whose roots have grown too deep.
The respiration process doesn’t work when the hedge doesn’t get sufficient oxygen. Plant respiration is critical for carbon balance within the plant cells. It is also responsible for the rejuvenation of the plant tissues (source).
You can ensure your hedge has sufficient soil oxygen by doing the following:
- Plant the hedge at the proper depth. Dig a trench that is 30 – 45cm ( 12 – 18 inches) deep and at least 18 inches (45 cm) wide. You need to plant hedges with extensive root systems deeper. Avoid planting short hedges too deep so the roots can access soil oxygen (source).
- Avoid overwatering the hedges.
- Do not mulch the hedge during the rainy season.
- Reduce foot traffic around the hedge to prevent soil compaction.
3. Curl Grubs May Have Destroyed The Roots
Curl grubs are a menace to your lawn, vegetable garden, and hedges. They often attack hedges when they have younger roots. The grubs nip off the roots and leave the hedge without roots. Since plants cannot survive without roots, the leaves will soon turn brown and fall off.
4. Temperature Fluctuations
Some hedges have leaves that turn brown and fall off because of temperature fluctuations. Scorching summers cause the leaves to lose more water in evaporation. Unless you water the hedges more often, the leaves will fall off. Heavy frosts also burn leaves and cause them to fall off.
5. Prolonged Drought
Evergreen hedges can survive harsh weather conditions. However, when there is a prolonged drought, the leaves will start to droop and ultimately fall off. You can support your hedges by watering them early in the morning or evening (source).
Drip irrigation is the best choice because the water will get to the roots, unlike overhead irrigation, which will only cool the leaves but not quench the plant’s thirst.
6. Seasonal Changes
Your hedge may be losing its leaves because it is the season when plants lose their leaves. Most plants lose their leaves during fall. Deciduous hedges undergo the same changes that trees do during fall. The leaves change color before falling off.
Evergreens shed leaves at different times of the year. However, they don’t lose as many leaves as deciduous hedges do during the fall season.
7. Deer Damage
If you have deers in your area who occasionally find their way into your property, they may be responsible for the falling leaves of your hedge.
Dear damage is unique because it sometimes looks like the hedge is losing leaves randomly, while the damage is systematic other times. Often the border plants lose the leaves at the bottom, leaving behind the naked stem.
8. Hedge Diseases
Hedge diseases may also be responsible for the falling leaves from your hedge. They include;
- Armillaria root rot
- Dematophora root rot
These are fungal diseases that not only destroy the leaves of hedges but also affect growth. The best way to control the diseases is by pruning the affected leaves and throwing them away. In extreme conditions, you may need to remove the entire plant to save the others.
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