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Hebe loses leaves

The leaves on my hebe have developed brown spots and fallen off. Now the tree is bare. It is planted in a clay-soiled garden, which is well drained in a keystone retaining wall. The shrub has a fence behind it. The hebe gets the sun mid-morning until about 3pm in the afternoon. What can I do to get the leaves to grow again and how do I get rid of the brown spot? If I have to get rid of the plant, can I put something else in its place?

Unfortunately, I would say that your hebe is most likely dead. Sometimes when a non-deciduous plant loses all of its leaves it can resprout, but this will usually happen within a week or two of losing its leaves.

Sudden loss of leaves suggests two possibilities to me. The first is that the soil dried out too much for too long, and the hebe just gave up and died. If this is the case, then in future you need to keep an eye on watering the garden, increasing the organic material in the soil with compost, and mulching with pea-straw or bark. Even if it rains, sometimes it just isn't enough to wet the soil properly.

The second possibility is that a root-rot set in and killed the plant. A number of diseases will attack trees and shrubs, and there is not a lot you can do about it. In future, buy a healthy-looking replacement, keep it well-fed, well-watered and free of pests and diseases. I would avoid planting another hebe in the same place. Visit your local garden centre and have a look at the range of shrubs they have for your area and your soil conditions. You might also consider improving your soil and the drainage with sand, compost and gypsum. Good luck.

UnitecAdvice by Dr Dan Blanchon from Unitec's Diploma in Sustainable Horticulture and Bachelor of Resource Management.

Reproduced with permission from NZOOM Home and Garden content,
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