Even with a difficult growing season, many shrubs have done quite well locally. For many, it seems as though shrubs purchased 10-25 years ago have grown more like trees than the tag on the small container mentioned years ago.
But the heat and drought have taken their toll on some plants suffering from problems such as root diseases, insect and disease problems, and poor planting location. Some of these damaged plants are in need of replacement along with a large pruning task ahead for healthy, fast growing shrubs.
Often it gets to the point for frustrated homeowners who annually spend large amounts of time and money fighting back excessive growth on shrubs that they dream of starting over with small adaptable shrubs that won't consume their landscape management time or budget. Maybe now is the time to consider replacing problem plants and fast growers with newer smaller maturing plants.
Actually, fall is a good time to replace plants with new smaller maturing, disease resistant cultivars. Clemson University's Home and Garden site provides individual bulletins on many shrubs for use in South Carolina at clemson.edu/extension/hgic/plants/landscape/shrubs/.
HGIC Bulletin 1050, Choosing a Planting Location is a must read before replacing plants or any large landscape installation project. It takes you through the process of evaluating the above ground conditions such as sunlight, large trees, structures and surface drainage conditions. It follows up with assessment of soil, physical conditions and drainage within individual planting locations. The first step is assessing the planting location, then selecting appropriately adapted plants for growing conditions.
Various plants can be selected for the landscape characteristics to suit different growing conditions within the landscape. A foundation planting of Japanese hollies suffering from plant decline caused by root diseases, aided by periodic saturated conditions from runoff or ponding would require correction of drainage issues related to ground conditions before replanting. A small maturing holly that is tolerant of wetter conditions, such as dwarf yaupon holly, might be a good replacement in clay soils.
Large growing cultivars of flowering azaleas can become a pruning burden over time and certain cultivars are more susceptible to damage from winter cold. It might be time to replace older plants with smaller maturing cultivars that tolerate colder temperatures such as the Kurume types cultivar 'Coral Bells' or others.
A number of cultivars of Indian Hawthorn are very susceptible to Entomosporium leaf spot. Some are also susceptible to cold damage in the Upstate. Poor performing plants should be replaced with one of the many more adaptable cultivars listed in bulletin HGIC 1078 Indian Hawthorn. The best way to deal with disease problems are to plant in full sun using cultivars listed as disease resistant and use drip irrigation on plants for irrigation.
Another plant with new smaller sized cultivars are the traditional Nandinas. The old standard plants produce numerous seeds that have led to invasive spreading into many wild areas in the state. If you have old plants, you can replace them with new seedless cultivars, some of which are very small sized. "Fire Power' is a popular cultivar with lime green foliage maturing to bright red in the fall with a mature size of 2-3 feet.
There are newer cultivars of many other adaptable shrubs with smaller size, better disease resistance and adaptability listed on the HGIC. These include new cultivars of Hydrangeas, Gardenias, Loropetalums, Boxwoods, and others. If you are becoming frustrated with an overpowering shrub landscape then there are alternatives to replace many fast growing shrubs. If you have questions, you can stop by our office on East Cambridge Avenue or call 864-223-3264.
James Hodges is a Clemson Extension agent in Greenwood County. He can be reached at 864-223-3264.