Shrub Problems: Solutions for Wilted, Yellow, or Brown Leaves

Also Issues with Unopened Flower Buds and More

Weigela florida 'variegata'
Weigela florida 'variegata' is a shrub with bicolored leaves. Neil Holmes/Photolibrary/Getty Images

Many readers inform me about their shrub problems, etc. through email and through social media. Some of the more common difficulties reported concern flower buds (be it the absence of flower buds on bushes or the failure of existing flower buds to open) and the presence of leaves that just do not look right -- whether they be wilting or simply of the "wrong" color (brown or yellow at times that they would normally be green).

The following questions about shrub health, etc. (and the corresponding answers) are adapted from exchanges I have had with readers of my Landscaping site (questions that they have sent in and answers I have sent back). The information may well be applicable to your own situation, which is why I am making these exchanges public. Even where the reader has asked for help with a particular type of shrub and your own issue is with a different kind of shrub, the answer I provide may well hold true in your case, too.

Wilted, Yellow, or Brown Leaves

Some of the most common shrub problems sent in by readers have to do with the condition of a bush's leaves. In severe cases, these problems can be an indication that your shrub is in serious trouble and could even die unless suitable remedies are applied.

The Shrub Fails to Bloom

Another set of common shrub problems centers around a failure to flower. Unlike with the issues above, these problems are rarely life-threatening. Still, since some flowering shrubs are installed in the landscape solely for the purpose of admiring the splendor of their blossoming displays, failure to bloom can render such a shrub more or less useless to you (until such time as the problem is resolved). 

When Your Shrubs Have Unwanted Growth

The shrub problems dealt with so far have focused on deficiencies. But shrubs can sometimes grow too successfully or develop unusual growths that do not belong on them at all. 

Rose of Sharon is an example of a shrub that is so vigorous that a problem frequently associated with it is getting rid of all those unwanted seedlings that sprout up naturally. For this reason, rose of Sharon is not a low-maintenance shrub. Of course, if you wish to start rose of Sharon from seed, you can turn this "problem" into an advantage.

Other shrubs are not low-maintenance due to their tendency to produce suckers (which will often have to be removed). A different kind of "unwanted growth" is sometimes witnessed on azaleas: In this case, we are talking about odd lumps that do not belong on the shrubs, growths that look like something out of a science fiction movie.